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Where Justin Fields' Injury, Development Stand

The Bears will be looking at Justin Fields closely all week for signs he can play without pain from his broke ribs, and in the process they could be trying to determine where he is at in terms of developing into an NFL passer.

The only thing clear about the Bears quarterback situation heading into Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers is how unclear it really is.

This will be another week of guessing on Justin Fields' availability as they go into the third week since he suffered broken ribs against Baltimore on Nov. 21.

"That's going to be an on-going discussion for us all week long," coach Matt Nagy said Monday at Halas Hall. "Literally."

Whether it's even worth it for Fields to start in the final five games for this coaching staff in this struggling Bears offense is open to debate, but he's not a finished product at all. 

So he could benefit just by getting a chance to play another live game.

It just depends on how the ribs feel because they're not going to be completely healed in a few weeks but there are ways to cover the injury to limit the possibility of additional damage.

"I've said it all along: This is more of a pain thing for him right now, medically," Nagy said. "We're never going to put him at risk, medically. Never. So you can mark that down.

"If he is able to go and he is able to play and be the starter, it's going to be because medically he's cleared. And then I think more than anything it's pain. Ya know? It's going to be a pain-tolerance deal."

This will make a game plan for facing the Packers a two-sided situation.

"In the meantime, we have to be able to do like we did last week too, which is kind of prepare on both sides of it," Nagy said.

This means come up with attacks two opposite styles of quarterbacks can implement.

It would also be the first time Fields has gone against an opposing defense more than once, which can offer some solid insight into his progress. One of Fields' better early efforts came Oct. 17 against Green Bay. He completed 16 of 27 for 174 yards with a touchdown, an interception and ran for 43 yards in a 24-14 loss.

Fields had driven the Bears to a fourth-quarter touchdown and they trailed 17-14 but the defense then quickly allowed Green Bay to drive right back down and score a clinching TD.

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The Bears haven't considered this a season-ending injury and Nagy again said Monday they are not thinking of injured reserve for Fields.

Why Fields would have benefit from playing in this offense now is open for debate.

If nothing much improves it does not take a vivid imagination to foresee a coaching change. Nagy and this staff can't obviously operate this way and they're looking to see further development from Fields, who had been making strides before the injury.

"Even going back to the San Fran game, I really felt like the game, No. 1, was slowing down to him," Nagy said.

They have aspects of Fields' game to check out, like how he reads defenses and attacks them. It helps to develop game plans, but by now it should have been apparent how he's best used.

"I really felt like his confidence was starting to get good out there, at practice, on the field, in himself," Nagy said. "Then the other part of this too is us creating and knowing what his strengths are, helped us out as well. So we were kind of trying to find that balance. So if he is able to go this week and that's the case, then we have to do a good job with that and understand that."

Whether missing 2 1/2 games could be damaging to the developmental process is something the Bears can't know until they actually see him back in the lineup.

What they do know is Fields must be protected due to the injury if he does play.

Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo thinks the learning process actually applies to injuries and avoiding them when it comes to Fields, and the hits in the NFL are much more severe than in college football.

"I think there's times he's trying to make a move and he realizes he can't get away with it against a faster player that he's probably been playing against," DeFilippo said. "No offense to the Big Ten, great conference, obviously, but it's just the reality of the beast. I think he's really learning what you can get away with and what you can't.

"I do think when you have a player that's that athletic, I do think there is a little bit of a learning curve in that for sure."

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