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Justin Fields or Andy Dalton? Bears’ starting QB a game-time decision

A week ago Wednesday, coach Matt Nagy named Justin Fields the starter because he didn’t want the Bears’ quarterback situation to be a distraction to his team.  Nine days later — but, really, it feels like nine years — Nagy chose not to name a starting quarterback Friday.

Andy Dalton (14) is 1-1 as a starter for the Bears this season. Rookie Justin Fields (1) is 0-1 after the Bears’ 26-6 loss to the Browns in Fields’ first NFL start last week.
Andy Dalton (14) is 1-1 as a starter for the Bears this season. Rookie Justin Fields (1) is 0-1 after the Bears’ 26-6 loss to the Browns in Fields’ first NFL start last week.
Nam Y. Huh/AP Photos

A week ago Wednesday, coach Matt Nagy named Justin Fields the starter because he didn’t want the Bears’ quarterback situation to distract his team.

Nine days later — but, really, it feels like nine years — Nagy chose not to name a starting quarterback Friday, adding another ring to the circus during a week in which he chose not to publicly disclose Sunday’s play-caller and, in an offensive meeting, asked his players to speak up about what scheme changes they wanted to see.

That left veteran Andy Dalton in a situation he probably had never been in before: answering questions Friday about whether he’d start over Justin Fields and how, exactly, the bone bruise in his left knee feels.

Dalton danced around those questions more deftly, probably, than he moved in the pocket during practice this week. Dalton was asked if he’d completed a practice [“I did some things out there and felt good,” he said], whether he’d ever played through a more severe injury [“I have to think”] and what a bone bruise felt like [“The biggest thing is that it’s felt better every day.”]

When asked what he’d tell a family member who called to ask about his status -Sunday, he said the obvious: he wasn’t giving up any more information than his coach had minutes earlier.

“I’d say it’s going to be a game-time decision with everything, and we’ll see how this thing goes,” said Dalton, who shed his left knee sleeve for Friday’s practice. “As I’m sure you heard from Matt, that’s probably all you’re going to get.”

Ah yes, Matt. Nagy’s bunker mentality in advance of a must-win Lions game continued with the announcement that Dalton or Fields would start Sunday. Nagy reiterated that Dalton is the starter when healthy, Fields is the No. 2 and Nick Foles has no chance of starting Sunday. The question, then, is the Bears’ definition of the word “healthy” on Sunday morning.

“It’s been improving every day,” said Dalton, who arrived to Halas Hall early for rehab the last two weeks. “So that’s the whole thing. If we can keep this thing improving every day then we’ll be in a good spot.”

Dalton had never experienced a bone bruise before. He re-entered the game after he was injured running out of bounds in Week 2, but felt his knee tighten up.

“I felt like I could get back out there,” he said. “And then, after a couple movements, it was evident it would be hard for be at 100% when playing so it’s just working through that. That’s biggest thing.”

Fields hurt his right thumb in Sunday’s 26-6, 47-yards-on-42-plays debacle against the Browns but was a full participant in practice all week, albeit with a wrap on his hand. He does not have an injury designation for -Sunday’s game.

Fields said he felt more comfortable -during practice than he did leading up to his first start.

”Last week, you really can’t get worse than that,” he said. “I mean, I hope not. But I felt comfortable this week.”

Fields said his thumb “definitely feels good,” but Nagy indicated that a hurdle for Fields would be “mentally getting used to” his thumb feeling different than usual. The more important question would be the long-term hurdle of Fields going back to the bench — if Dalton starts.

“How do I process it? Just do it,” Fields said. “It’s not hard. It’s not complicated. You’ve just gotta do it. Things happen in life where they might not go your way or might not happen the way you want it to, but you can’t control that. Control the things you can control and face the fact and deal with it right there.”