Justin Fields: ‘Great things don’t happen all at once’

He’ll bide his time as the backup, even as his competitiveness makes him want more.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields waves to the crowd at Wrigley Field on Friday.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields waves to the crowd at Wrigley Field on Friday.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

There’s no more popular player in sports than the second-string quarterback.

To Bears fans, though, Justin Fields has taken it to another level. In the first month after he was drafted No. 11 overall, Fields had three jerseys among the NFL’s best-selling five. Last week, he received a standing ovation at Wrigley Field that lasted long enough to make him uncomfortable. 

He’s potentially the franchise quarterback for a team that has never had one. 

Some fans are growing impatient already, despite — and also because of — coach Matt Nagy’s firm stance that Andy Dalton will start in Week 1.

Fields is no stranger to attention. He used to get stopped shopping at Target in Columbus, Ohio. He said there’s no reason not to embrace the love — “There’s a lot of people who would wanna be in my shoes right now,” he said — or the expectations.

“Of course I feel it,” he said. “But great things don’t happen all at once.”

After the last snap of the Bears’ mandatory minicamp Thursday, the Ohio State alum walked a fine line. He’ll bide his time as the backup, even as his competitiveness makes him want more. He said he believes in the Bears’ plan to let Dalton start as they develop the rookie, but he has to remind himself to be patient.

“I mean, if I don’t believe in it, then it’s not going to work out,” said Fields, who recently went to dinner with Dalton and his wife. “My job is strictly to get better, be the best quarterback I can be and, you know, help my team win. That’s what I am going to do whether it’s starting, whether it’s sitting.”

It’s unclear if Bears fans can stay just as patient. Nagy, though, continued to detail just how far Fields has to go. 

The Bears installed a new play Thursday morning that Fields ran in a red-zone drill. He didn’t read the defense properly, though, and threw an interception at the goal line to leaping linebacker Christian Jones.

Nagy immediately asked Fields why he threw the ball there. Fields told him what he saw.

“We can correct him,” Nagy said. “And now the next time that play’s called, I’m gonna guarantee you that he won’t make the same mistake.”

A half-hour later, Fields made that very guarantee. 

“Personally, I tend not to make a mistake more than one time,” he said. “So once I’ve made that mistake, I learn from that mistake and, I mean, there’s a 99% chance that that same mistake won’t happen again.”

That confidence is part of what attracted the Bears to their new quarterback. It’s what will make training camp so compelling: How will Fields — who has participated in only three practices with the Bears’ defensive starters — handle failure? How quickly will he grow from it? Will Bears coaches be able to tell?

Fields and the rest of the rookie class will spend another week studying at Halas Hall. Fields plans to return to Chicago a few weeks before training camp in July, but not before taking a vacation with his family. He still plans to work out and study the Bears’ plays for 45 minutes per day. Then he has to take out his phone.

As part of Fields’ homework, he takes out his phone and records audio of himself reading off one of the Bears’ plays. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo wants Fields — who called plays in the huddle maybe 10% of the time in college — to master the right words, but also the intonation. He needs to call the play as though he’s speaking, not reading.

And then he needs to send the audio to DeFilippo.

“I like to do something every day,” Fields said. “Just to have that peace of mind knowing that I’m getting better each and every day.”

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