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Bears rookie QB Justin Fields out with groin injury, in question for Bills game

Coach Matt Nagy held Fields out of practice Wednesday but remains optimistic he will be ready for the preseason game Saturday.

Justin Fields completed 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in his preseason debut.
Justin Fields completed 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in his preseason debut.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Coach Matt Nagy tried to tamp down the inevitable panic that would come with announcing any injury to prized rookie quarterback Justin Fields by saying, ‘‘There’s nothing to read into,’’ and by emphasizing the Bears simply are being over-the-top careful with the future of their franchise.

But considering how unclear Nagy has been about injuries at times and how valuable Fields is, there’s going to be some concern after a groin injury kept him out of practice Wednesday. And while Nagy said he assumes Fields still will be able to play in the Bears’ preseason game Saturday against the Bills, he couldn’t guarantee it.

‘‘It’s too early to go there,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We want to get to that point where he’s able to play in that game. That’s very important. We’re being super-conservative. When you start messing with these soft-tissue deals, you’ve gotta be smart.

‘‘Every day from here until Saturday, we’ve got to be careful with him because we want to be able to evaluate him [against the Bills]. If we asked you guys, ‘Hey, would you rather he not practice today and [thus be able to] play Saturday . . . what would you pick? So you all can’t get mad that he’s not practicing. We’re trying to be smart with him.’’

Fields watched most of practice in a hat with a ball tucked under his arm while Andy Dalton ran the first team and Nick Foles took over second-string duty. He did some occasional light throwing from about 20 to 30 yards, including some target practice at a trash can in the end zone.

The timeline of his injury is vague. He seemed fine coming out of his preseason debut Saturday against the Dolphins after completing 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown.

Nagy made no mention of an issue in his pre-practice news conferences Monday and Tuesday, but Fields didn’t look quite right Tuesday. His throwing accuracy and timing were uncharacteristically off.

‘‘He was a little sore, and Justin is the last one that’s going to tell you that’s an excuse,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He was [angry] at some of the throws and just the [performance] in general [Tuesday]. We were all a little bit — I didn’t think offensively we had a very good day.’’

Fields got 33 snaps against the Dolphins, and Nagy had hoped to increase that number against the Bills and in the preseason finale Aug. 28 at the Titans. He thinks those games are critical to Fields’ development as he tries to implement what he has been learning in practice and vital to the organization to judge his progress.

‘‘The preseason games are big [because] you don’t have coaches sitting out on the field and making sure guys are on the same page,’’ Dalton said when asked why they matter so much for Fields. ‘‘When you get into the huddle, you’re the guy that’s directing everything and making sure everybody knows exactly what you’re doing. The experience that you get from the preseason games is big.’’

Nagy is committed to Dalton as his starter for the regular-season opener at the Rams on Sept. 12, but he hasn’t been definitive beyond that. When the Bears drafted Fields, Nagy said the ideal plan would be to give him a full season as the backup, like Patrick Mahomes had with the Chiefs in 2017.

Nagy chose Mitch Trubisky as his starter a week before last season started, then switched to Foles in the third quarter of Week 3.

Fields’ groin injury came amid a slew of bad news for the Bears. In addition to their first-round quarterback sitting out, their second-round pick has a back injury that might cost him the season. Teven Jenkins, the presumptive starting left tackle who had yet to practice, had surgery Wednesday.