Frustrated by the way he played earlier in the day, Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields had a request for his position coach Thursday. After practice was done, he asked quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo to walk him through the practice script — what plays the team ran — a second time.
“It’s just really refreshing to see a young guy as willing as he — that’s had the amount of success he’s had in his past— [and] he wants to be great … ” DeFilippo said Thursday afternoon. “Little things like that, that, I don’t wanna say wow you, because I know the player. I’ve gotten to know him over time. It doesn’t shock me that he wants to do that.”
It’s a good sign. Fields won’t be the starter Week 1, but he’s preparing to be one. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor notices it from nighttime texts from Fields — “Not too late; he’s respectful,” Lazor said — asking questions about the following day’s practice. Or when Lazor hears him call out a play with wonky wording at 9 a.m. like it’s his second language.
“Knowing what I know of Justin and how, how willing he is to learn and to do what’s necessary to really be great,” Lazor said. “I didn’t say, ‘How much he wants to be great’ — but how willing he is to do what’s necessary.”
For now, at least, Saturdays in the preseason are where Fields can show his work. And there are only two of those games left before the regular season begins.
He’ll get a second opportunity to wow the Soldier Field crowd at noon Saturday against Mitch Trubisky and the Bills. After sitting out Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury — and struggling Tuesday in part because of it — Fields practiced Thursday and was given the all-clear to play the exhibition game.
Bears coach Matt Nagy reiterated the team was being cautious Wednesday.
“Again, anything could happen,” Nagy said. “But I think giving him [Wednesday] off to help him was good — and he feels good. ... We wanted to be able to sacrifice that day of practice to be able to get him right for Saturday.”
He’ll take the field in the second half of the second quarter, after starter Andy Dalton leaves.
The Bears want to see Dalton run an efficient, explosive offense after going three-and-out twice last week— “I’m fairly confident I know what I’m getting, but I’d like to see him play well,” Lazor said —and to see Fields take the next step in his development. Lazor said Fields is “right on track” so far. The plan remains for Dalton to open the season as the starter, and for Fields to learn the subtleties of quarterbacking from the classroom and sideline.
Bears fans just want to see another thrill — while they still can.
Saturday, Fields went 14-for-20 for 142 yards and one touchdown against the Dolphins. He ran five times for 33 yards and another touchdown, and was timed as the third-fastest ball carrier —behind two wide receivers — in Week 1 of the preseason.
“He’s electrifying,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “He’s just exciting to watch. He’s one of those players you just sit on the sideline and go, ‘What is he gonna do next?’ Him and the pocket awareness, his mobility is what keeps everyone on their toes.”
The speed is something that no one can teach.
But Fields’ coaches are more impressed with what he’s been willing to learn.
“How great he wants to be,” DeFilippo said. “It’s really impressive.”