Bears QB Justin Fields likely out vs. Raiders; team doesn’t rule out surgery

Fields left the Vikings game in the third quarter with a dislocated thumb and could miss extended time.

SHARE Bears QB Justin Fields likely out vs. Raiders; team doesn’t rule out surgery
Bears quarterack Justin Fields on the sideline.

Justin Fields completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards before dislocating his thumb Sunday.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Bears quarterback Justin Fields probably will miss the game against the Raiders because of a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand. After that, there’s a wide range of possibilities. The most serious concern is he’ll need surgery, which could keep him out until December or later.

In the meantime, undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent will start in his place.

The Bears will take until the end of the week to decide how to handle Fields, coach Matt Eberflus said Monday. While the initial MRI exam was encouraging, they need time for the swelling in his hand to subside enough to determine whether he tore anything and needs surgery. If they’re going to put him on injured reserve, they’ll want to do that by Saturday so the Raiders game counts as one of the four he’d be required to miss.

If Fields doesn’t need surgery, the issue will be whether he can grip the ball well enough to throw and do virtually every other part of his job.

“We just want to give it time [and] give us the best opportunity to see where it is, and then we’ll make that decision,” Eberflus said.

Whether Fields is out long-term or back quickly but limited, the injury hurts his campaign to be the franchise quarterback. Missing time is not a neutral event for someone who doesn’t have secure footing.

Fields put up splashy numbers against the Broncos and Commanders but was a wreck in the three games before those and was trending poorly before exiting early in the third quarter Sunday against the Vikings.

Fields completed just 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards with an interception and no touchdowns for a 36.7 passer rating. The Bears had managed two field goals in six possessions at that point and trailed 12-6 on their way to a 19-13 loss.

Fields has completed 61.7% of his passes (26th in the NFL), averaged 200.2 yards passing (27th) and thrown 11 touchdown passes (fifth) and six interceptions (fourth-most). His 91.6 passer rating is the best of his career and ranks 12th.

His big games against the Broncos and Commanders, two of the NFL’s four worst defenses, skewed his stats. He completed 67.2% of his passes, totaled 617 yards and threw for eight touchdowns against one interception for a 131.3 passer rating over those two games. In the other four, he completed 58.2% of his passes and averaged 146 yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions for a 64.3 passer rating.

And as the rest of the league emphasizes keeping him in the pocket, Fields has averaged 39.5 yards rushing per game — about half of what he produced last season on his way to becoming the third quarterback ever to run for 1,000 yards.

Since entering the NFL in 2021, Fields has the third-highest interception rate at 3.7% and has a league-high 16 fumbles (that includes bad snaps, so not all of them are his fault). His turnovers have cost the Bears badly this season, most notably on pick-sixes against the Packers and Buccaneers and in the collapse against the Broncos, when his fumble was returned for a touchdown and he threw a game-ending interception.

The Bears are 6-25 in Fields’ starts, and he has posted a passer rating below 80 in 15 of those, thrown for under 200 yards in 21 and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in seven — including twice this season.

Eberflus wouldn’t give an assessment of how Fields played Sunday, referring instead to the entire offense needing do better. The closest he got to a specific evaluation came in his analysis of the play on which Fields got hurt, when he held the ball for six seconds before flinging it out of bounds as linebacker Danielle Hunter knocked him to the ground.

“Him being able to get rid of the ball a little bit faster — we would certainly like that so he wouldn’t take the hit,” Eberflus said.

Eberflus pointed to shortfalls in blocking and execution as problems against the Vikings, but the best quarterbacks don’t need everything around them to be perfect. They overcome flaws and lift the offense. Fields hasn’t done that.

Because of the increasing likelihood that the Bears will be picking at or near the top of the draft — they have their own first-round selection, plus the winless Panthers’ — Fields must deliver a convincing case that general manager Ryan Poles should stick with him rather than draft an elite prospect such as USC’s Caleb Williams.

When Poles bypassed quarterbacks in the draft this year by trading out of the No. 1 pick, none of those prospects were consensus can’t-miss players. Williams is viewed as a once-every-few-years talent. And Poles might want to draft his own quarterback rather than continue to try to make it work with Ryan Pace’s.

Fields would need to be amazing over the final 11 games, and now that number is shrinking.

The injury doesn’t quite count against Fields in the Bears’ evaluation of him, but he already was at a significant deficit and couldn’t afford to lose any more chances to prove himself.

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