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Between prime-time games, Justin Fields navigating a new practice routine

The most challenging game week of Justin Fields’ Bears career began on NBC and will end on ESPN. In between his two prime-time games, the Bears’ rookie quarterback might not throw a single full-speed pass.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
Justin Fields runs to the sideline against the Packers.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The most challenging game week of -Justin Fields’ Bears career began on NBC and will end on ESPN.

In between his two prime-time games, the Bears rookie quarterback might not throw a single full-speed pass. With their roster decimated by coronavirus cases, the Bears changed practice on Thursday to a walk-through and figure to do the same the rest of the week.

The Bears have said all year that Fields’ improvement comes from one practice to another. That doesn’t apply to walk-throughs.

“You can walk through it,” Fields said, “but it’s not the same without repping it live.”

He could have it worse. No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, with whom Fields has competed since their high-school days in Georgia, spent his Wednesday saying that Jaguars “can’t always be in the headlines” for negative reasons. Later that night, his coach, Urban Meyer, was fired.

By that comparison — and perhaps only by that comparison — the Bears’ current coronavirus drama seems small. Otherwise, the circumstances of the outbreak will challenge a rookie who needs as many practice reps as he can get.

As he grows into a leadership role, Fields vowed to stay focused — and keep what teammates are still healthy engaged each day this week.

“We’re all grown men, we’re all here for one reason — and that’s to win games,” he said. “So if guys can’t lock in for a walk-through that’s on them at the end of the day. And, you know, it’s partly my job to make sure that other guys around me are locked in and taking the walk-through seriously.”

No Bears player has more at stake over the next four weeks. Playing through cracked ribs, Fields is out to set the tone for next season — and, along the way, impress the Bears’ next head coach, wherever he might be.

“I didn’t really have expectations coming into the season,” he said. “I’m taking it day by day. You know I didn’t put a number on how many touchdown passes I was supposed to have, this and that. I’m just playing every day, day by day, not worrying about the future, not worrying about the past.”

Fields’ goals are simple — “Just continue to get better,” he said — even as measuring it is complicated. His statistics are concerning: his 69.3 passer rating ranks 35th out of the 38 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts this season. Two of the three players below him, though, are fellow rookies — the Jets’ Zach Wilson and Lawrence. All three rookies have won only two games apiece as a starter.

Only three quarterbacks in the NFL have more rushing yards than Fields’ 385, though. He said he’s seeing the field well. He feels more comfortable with each start, which Fields called an important measurement of his progress.

“Seeing how you play,” he said. “Not really how you play, but seeing how you feel when you’re actually out on the field — like, how comfortable do you feel running these plays? And literally every week I feel more and more comfortable just with the whole dynamic of the play, knowing where all my answers are and stuff like that.

“So each week I’m getting more comfortable back there, and kinda taking it slowly.”

Not having full practices this week will only slow it down further.

“Just continue to get better,” he said. “Build each and every game and build into the offseason. Just get better every game.”