The Bears are going back to where they began, with Andy Dalton returning to his role as starting quarterback Sunday against the Giants.
Their best option would be rookie Justin Fields, who needs as much experience as possible, but he was unable to practice fully this week because of an ankle injury. He also missed the game against the Seahawks, which Nick Foles started.
Fields hurt his ankle in the loss to the Vikings on Dec. 20 and has been limited in practice the last two weeks by what coach Matt Nagy called ‘‘the pain of football movements,’’ indicating Fields’ mobility has been hampered to the point that it’s unwise to play him.
‘‘We want to be able to have him do everything,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And he wants that, too, whether it’s scrambling outside of the pocket, extending plays with his legs, whatever it is. We want him to be as close to 100% as we can get, and he’s just not there right now.’’
Nagy said he hoped Fields would make it back for the season finale Jan. 9 at the Vikings.
He also said Foles will be the backup Sunday. But, in step with typical Bears gibberish, he didn’t rule out Fields. Instead, he listed him as questionable, just like he did when Fields was inactive against the Seahawks.
But if Dalton is starting, Foles is the backup and Fields isn’t healthy enough to start, isn’t he out?
‘‘He’s what?’’ Nagy said. ‘‘No, he’s not out. He’s not out.’’
There’s no point in trying to get a straight answer anymore.
Anyway, Dalton will make his first start since throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Cardinals in Week 13. Jake Fromm or former Bears castoff Mike Glennon will start at quarterback for the Giants.
Dalton was out for three weeks after the game against the Cardinals because of a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) hand and a hip-flexor injury. He also was out with the coronavirus for six days before being cleared to return Dec. 17.
‘‘It’s been a whirlwind with everything,’’ Dalton said. ‘‘You throw COVID in the mix of all of that, it’s been a crazy month for me. But I feel good about where I’m at now, and my body feels healthy.’’
It was the second consecutive season Dalton caught the coronavirus, but he said, ‘‘Thankfully it wasn’t too bad for me this year.’’
For the season, Dalton has completed 64.1% of his passes for 1,017 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions for a 79.9 passer rating. Very little of it has gone as he anticipated when he signed a one-year, $10 million contract in March with the promise that he would be the Bears’ starter.
‘‘Very different than every other year that I’ve been in the league,’’ Dalton said. ‘‘The ideal situation is to have one guy the whole year, and he’s building that chemistry with everybody throughout the season. But that hasn’t been the case.’’
Dalton and the Bears got clobbered in the season opener against the Rams, then he suffered a bone bruise in his knee against the Bengals (his former team) in Week 2 that opened the door for Fields to take over.
Fields started in Dalton’s place against the Browns and Lions, and the Bears made him their permanent starter after that. Dalton filled in for 2œ games when Fields had cracked ribs but otherwise has been stuck on the bench.
While Dalton, 34, is unlikely to factor into the Bears’ future plans, Sunday might be his last opportunity to audition for other teams as he heads to free agency.