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Epilepsy No Problem for Justin Fields

Bears first-round draft pick Justin Fields driven for success despite epilepsy and negative comments from former player.

First came the comments from former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky saying Justin Fields lacked a proper work ethic.

Then came the report the Ohio State quarterback suffered from epilepsy.

Fields shrugged it all off like he might a defensive back trying to tackle him in the open field, much the way he shrugged off injuries during some big games last season before forging ahead. One thing was true and he did everything he could to render it meaningless. The other thing was false and there was nothing much he could do to combat it.

Fields does suffer from epilepsy, and said on Friday it's just a situation he's always managed.

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"It is what it is," Fields said of epilepsy. "It's a part of me; I'm not going to try to hide it. It's who I am. There's no reason to try to hide it. Like I said before, I'm going to continue to manage this and continue to play football like I’ve always played football. It's really nothing new for me."

He's been coping with epilepsy for over seven years.

"Actually I got diagnosed with it in ninth grade," he said. "Basically, I had a seizure in school. It was crazy. I just woke up in an ambulance.

"That was definitely a crazy story for me. But regarding football and has it had an effect on football, it has had zero effect on football. I haven't missed any practices or any games because of it. It's pretty simple for me to manage it. I just have to take three to four pills a night every night. So it’s nothing crazy. It's kind of been a thing that has been there for 7-8 or so years. I'm used to it and I'm just going to continue to deal with it and continue to play the game I love."

Orlovsky, a former Lions quarterback, is an analyst who commented about Fields' shortcomings regarding work ethic. Later Orlovsky said his comments weren't explained well enough.

"I really can't do anything about it," Fields said. "There were some things that, of course, weren't true. At this point for me, at least, the draft is over and my focus now is turning to how can I help the Chicago Bears win. So, I'm not really worried about what was said in the past. That's all said and done with, so I'm here now and I'm worried about the present."

Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Matt Nagy already knew how sufficient Fields' work ethic was without needing to hear from anyone else. He said Nagy asked about it when he had been at Ohio State.

"Just asked about his work ethic, who he is, his ability on the field, decision-making, I mean, all of the above," Day said. "When you make a big decision like that, there’s a lot of questions that have to get asked."

Fields did struggle in some games this past season and it led to criticism he might not be reading defenses well. 

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The 42-35 Ohio State loss to Indiana in November helped fuel some of this. He threw three interceptions and two touchdown passes.  

"I think there were a few plays in that game where I was just trying to be Superman," Fields said. "I was trying to do too much; throw the ball with guys on my back. I was trying to take it back to, I guess, middle school days.

"I definitely learned a lot from that game — keeping my team in the best position to win and, of course, not putting my team at risk to turn the ball over. But I think that game was a game that I'll remember for the rest of my life in terms of what I need to to help put my team in the best position to win, to be successful. I usually learn from my mistakes and I'm just going to learn from those ones."

It's possible Orlovsky mistook Fields' generally unflappable nature for not being into his work. Fields says he tries to maintain an even keel.

"My dad has harped on it from when I was a little kid, just to make sure I have good body language," Fields said. "No matter how I'm feeling just try not to let others see it."

It might not look like it at times, but the fire is burning. His coach said as much in Friday's meeting with media.

"When you look at Justin, he kind of burns hot on the inside, but you can't always see it," Day said. "He's pretty even keeled. He doesn't get real emotional — at least you can't see it from the outside. He kind of keeps it close to the vest."

One thing Fields did let slip out was the quarterback he most emulates. 

Ironically, it's a name plenty of Bears fans have talked about the past few months.

"I would say when I was younger, like maybe eighth, ninth grade, it was more Cam Newton, but I would say these past couple years I've kind of turned more to a Russell Wilson-type quarterback," Fields said. "I've watched a lot of film on him. I've watched a lot of highlights on him."

To the untrained eye, there are some similarities.

"Just his deep ball is one, just off the top of my head, the way he puts it up, a lot of arc on it, his accuracy of course and just how he carries himself as a leader, as a teammate," Wilson said. "I like his game because he's an accurate quarterback. He also uses his legs. So just stuff like that. I think those are some similarities that we have."

If makes those similarities more evident in his NFL career, no one will be questioning work ethic, demeanor or any other quality.

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