Bears coach Matt Nagy didn’t seem too concerned about quarterback Justin Fields’ ankle early in the week. He said he expected him to play Sunday against the Seahawks and portrayed scaling back his work in practice mostly as a precaution.
Turns out it was quite a bit cloudier than that, and Fields is likely to miss the game.
The Bears will start third-stringer Nick Foles against the Seahawks, and practice-squad quarterback Ryan Willis probably will back him up.
It will be Foles’ first game in nearly a year. Whether that means anything to him after being inactive for most of the season is unknown. He declined to speak with the media Friday.
Foles hasn’t talked publicly since early in training camp, when he campaigned — including a mention of his Super Bowl MVP — for the Colts or someone else to trade for him rather than leave him stuck as the Bears’ third quarterback. Nonetheless, he resigned himself to the role.
‘‘I’m gonna keep slinging it with these third-stringers, and we’re gonna dice ’em up,’’ he said.
Now he gets the chance to sling it and dice up the Seahawks after being inactive for eight of the first 14 games.
Nagy listed Fields as questionable on the injury report Friday and said he would be available off the bench if he proves to be healthy enough in warmups, but he specified that would be an ‘‘emergency’’ option in case Willis doesn’t have a clear-enough grasp of the playbook.
Taking even the slightest risk with Fields would be imprudent, given that the Bears have nothing to play for in the standings. It’s impossible to have an actual emergency when the game is totally inconsequential, so it’s hard to believe Fields will be active.
The Bears also declared backup Andy Dalton out with injuries to his left (non-throwing) hand and groin.
So get ready for Foles and Willis.
Hey, wait, who’s Willis? Great question. He’s a 25-year-old who went undrafted out of Virginia Tech and joined the Bears a week ago. He never has taken an NFL snap.
Fields didn’t practice Thursday or Friday after he ‘‘tweaked’’ his ankle in the second quarter of the Bears’ 17-9 loss Monday to the Vikings. He stayed in the game and said Wednesday he expected to play in Seattle.
The Vikings hit him seven times on pass plays, including three sacks, and he took various hits on his seven rushes.
Having him play through the ankle injury, even as a backup, unnecessarily would compound the likely limitations he already was facing in the aftermath of suffering cracked ribs a month ago. He has been back for two games but almost certainly is still in pain.
Fields’ rookie season has been difficult enough, even when he has been healthy. Amid the Bears’ constant reshuffling on the offensive line, changes in play-callers and injuries to skill players, it has been tough to get a good read on Fields’ progress.
He played one of his best games against the Vikings, completing 67% of his passes, throwing for 285 yards and a touchdown and notching a 96.6 passer rating. For the season, however, he ranks 30th in the NFL in completion percentage (59%), 31st in yards passing per game (142.6), 32nd in percentage of passes intercepted (3.7%) and 29th in passer rating (73.2).
The Bears traded for Foles during the offseason in 2020, hoping he would solve their ongoing quarterback problem, but Mitch Trubisky beat him out for the job to open the season. Foles replaced Trubisky in Week 3 but was benched again in favor of Trubisky in Week 12 for the rest of the season.
Foles debuted for the Bears by bailing them out of a 26-10 deficit with three touchdown passes in the final seven minutes against the Falcons. After that, he threw seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions on his way to posting a 79.3 passer rating.