Justin Fields: I ‘love’ new Bears president, despite 2020 college clash

On Thursday, Fields told the Sun-Times that Warren had his full endorsement as the Bears’ new president/CEO, a role for which he was introduced last month.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields walks radio row at the Super Bowl.

Patrick Finley/Chicago Sun-Times

PHOENIX — Justin Fields and Kevin Warren used to be adversaries. In 2020, when Warren was the Big Ten commissioner, he canceled the football season because of coronavirus concerns. Fields, then the star quarterback at Ohio State, started a petition calling for the season to be reinstated and went on a public relations offensive to push the issue.

Eventually, Fields got his wish. Five weeks later, the Big Ten reversed course and went on to play a modified season.

The two later became friendly.

And now they’re partners.

On Thursday, Fields told the Sun-Times that Warren has his full endorsement as the Bears’ new president/CEO, the role for which he was hired last month.

“I love him,” Fields said Thursday at the Super Bowl radio row.

The reason: Warren is who he says he is.

“How he works with people, how genuine he is,” Fields said. “Just the kind of person he is — great.”

Warren visited Fields in the locker room after the Bears’ Oct. 9 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minneapolis masterpiece Warren helped build. Fields was spotted hugging Warren in the Bears’ weight room the day Warren was introduced. But Fields’ first public comments about the hiring Thursday were even more significant.

During a week when the NFL is celebrating the first instance of two Black quarterbacks starting a Super Bowl against each other, it’s worth noting where the Bears stand. They have their first Black president/CEO and their first Black general manager, Ryan Poles, along with Fields.

Hiring Warren was a significant departure from the Bears’ usual way of doing things. He’s their first president who didn’t already work for the team, and the second who isn’t George S. Halas or one of his descendants. He’ll inherit the job from a retiring Ted Phillips in April.

The admiration between Fields and Warren goes both ways. When he was introduced last month, Warren said he would have protested the Big Ten season cancellation, just as Fields did. He added he has “the greatest amount of respect” for Fields because “he wants to win championships.”

The Bears — a league-worst 3-14 this past season — are a long way from doing that. Fields’ trip to radio row might be the closest he gets to a Super Bowl unless there’s a fast-forward in the team’s rebuild. The Bears have the most salary-cap space in the NFL and the No. 1 overall draft pick, although they’re likely to trade the latter for a stockpile of picks this year and next.

Fields arrived in Phoenix as something he couldn’t claim to be last season: a well-known NFL player. If anything was clear Thursday, it was that he’s on a national scope — the face of a franchise that has so desperately searched for an offensive identity over the years. He signed autographs and posed for selfies while promoting an energy drink, C4. He repeated the same thing to those who asked: The 2022 season included “a lot of ups and downs,” but he sees brighter days ahead. He defended his own running, saying that he focused on protecting himself when he ran for the second-most yards by a quarterback in NFL history.

He praised the Bears’ training staff for helping keep him healthy. They monitored how much he ran in games and practices and knew how to taper him down.

“It’s a long season,” Fields said. “You have to take care of your body.”

Meanwhile, the Bears — and Warren — have to take care of him.

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