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Bears should listen to Justin Fields about more than just his ankle

The Bears aren’t ready to shut down Justin Fields for the season, hoping that he can recover from his ankle injury to start one of their last two games. 

Justin Fields runs to the sideline against the Packers.
Justin Fields runs to the sideline against the Packers.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Bears aren’t ready to shut down rookie quarterback Justin Fields for the season, hoping that he can recover from his ankle injury to start one of their last two games.

The injury was significant enough to force him to miss practice Thursday and Friday and to sit out the Bears’ 25-24 victory Sunday in Seattle. He wore a walking boot last week, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said.

“Justin wants to play,” coach Matt Nagy said Monday. “He’s a competitor. He wants to be there for his teammates. I think that’s what matters. And I think that’s what all of us understand. We have to be smart. We’re not going to put him at risk. And he knows that.

“We’re going to make sure we listen to him with what he says and where he’s at.”

When Fields returns — if he returns — the Bears need to listen to him about more than just his ankle. Minutes after losing to the Vikings last week, Fields was asked what part of his performance prompted confidence. He turned the answer into a statement about which plays he wants to run.

“When we, like, do no-huddle plays, I think our offense is very efficient doing that just because we know those plays,” he said. “It’s literally no thinking. We line up and run those plays, and I know where all the answers are to whatever coverage they give us [in the] hurry-up offense. I think that kind of gets our offense in a rhythm.”

So the Bears should run more of those plays. Nothing is more important than putting Fields in a position to succeed, no matter how many games he has left to play this season. It’s crucial before the Bears set out next month to find a coach with a vision of what Fields can be.

Hearing a quarterback wanting to go faster is as common as listening to basketball players say they want to run fast breaks. Still, it’s Nagy’s job to separate the natural predispositions of all quarterbacks from Fields’ preferences.

“You can’t necessarily live in it every play for certain reasons,” Nagy said last week. “But we can definitely do more of it. I think our players would agree with that. I think our coaches would.”

The Bears went no-huddle on consecutive plays only once until the fourth quarter against the Vikings. On the first drive of the fourth quarter, they ran five plays in a row without huddling. Fields went 4-for-4 for 51 yards and ran once for five yards. On the last drive of the game — admittedly, garbage time — the Bears ran three consecutive plays without a huddle. Fields went 2-for-3 for 20 yards.

On those seven plays, Fields had a passer rating of 108.93. On all others, it was 92.45.

The week before in Green Bay, four of the Bears’ 10 longest plays — and two of Fields’ three longest runs — came without a huddle, albeit late in the fourth quarter when the game was in hand.

That’s a way-too-small sample size — but it’s still significant, especially when combined with Fields stating his own preferences.

“With no motions, you don’t see the defense moving,” Fields said. ‘‘The defense is in one defense. You kind of know what kind of look you’re going to get. And we practice those hurry-up plays a lot. Everybody knows what to do on those certain plays, so it just allows us to play fast and play without thinking.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor cautioned against any narrative that implied Fields was better served by thinking less. Nagy suspects that his comfort in a no-huddle scheme comes from the way Fields and other young quarterbacks have operated an offense since they were kids.

“When you get in a two-minute setting, I think anybody would say that as you’re completing passes and progressing down the field, you get in a good rhythm,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “I think that benefits everybody on the field.”