Matt Nagy isn’t playing games. Or is he?
Andy Dalton took first-team reps at practice Wednesday when the Bears began preparation for Sunday’s home game against the Cardinals. But rookie Justin Fields participated in practice on a limited basis — at least giving the impression he still has a chance to start against the Cardinals.
It’s logical to assume Dalton will start, with Fields still recovering from broken ribs he suffered against the Ravens on Nov. 21. This is one reason why Dalton is here — to give Nagy a dependable, capable, proven option if Fields cannot play. And with Fields still clearly in a developmental stage, there doesn’t appear to be any reason to play him two weeks after suffering the injury.
But here we are, with Nagy still playing it as if Fields was as established as Kyler Murray and the Bears were in the thick of the playoff hunt instead of on the fringe. Go figure.
“Justin’s at a point right now [where it’s a matter of] where’s his pain level at? Can he do this? Can he do that?” Nagy said. “With Andy being able to come here and get these reps today, it’ll allow us to continue to see each day — ‘Justin, where are you at? What’s your pain today?’
“And then each day . . . however it much it is, we’ve gotta be able to say, ‘Is this something that we feel he’s gonna be the best he can be for us to win that game? Or is it gonna hurt him more or hurt us?’ ”
Nagy is aware of the risk of Fields aggravating the injury, but doesn’t sound prone to be as overcautious as perhaps the Bears should be. When Fields is ready to play, he’ll play.
“I don’t know. That would be something the doctors would have to answer,” Nagy said. “You have to No. 1 say, ‘Where is he with the injury health-wise?’ And the second part is, if you put him out there, is there a risk to more injury? I don’t know how all that works with the percentages of more stuff happening to it. I just know when we listen to our doctors and we listen to Justin with any pain he might be going through — we want to make sure we’re smart for him and for us, too, making the right decision.”
Nagy likes to keep quarterback matters secret whenever there’s a question of who will start.
“We’ll get into all the injury report statuses after practice,” he said at his Wednesday news when asked if Fields was going to practice.
An awkward silence followed from a media corps tired of the charade. And, to his credit, Nagy picked up on that and relented.
“He’s gonna [practice],” Nagy said.
Still, Nagy was hesitant to get into Fields’ physical state.
“I think he’s done good,” Nagy said. ‘‘I think he’s in a good place. Every day he’s trying to get a little better. That’s the main focus.”
Quarterback secrecy might be instinctive gamesmanship on Nagy’s part — making the Cardinals prepare for quarterbacks with disparate styles in Dalton and Fields. But even Nagy seems to know that the gamesmanship tack has limited practical use.
“I don’t know,” Nagy said when asked if the uncertainty about the quarterback provides an advantage. “Regardless of what we say or do, they’re gonna have their own opinion. We’ve been on the other side of that — we have our own opinions on what we think is gonna happen. We know we gotta have a plan for both, and we’ve done that.”