With QB Mitch Trubisky hurt, Bears backup Chase Daniel prepared for opportunity
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Chase Daniel’s phone rang during dinner on Christmas night, 2014.
It was Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Starting quarterback Alex Smith’s indigestion problem turned out to be a three-centimeter cut in his spleen. Daniel would have to start the team’s season finale three days later. With his family celebrating the holiday, Daniel hung up with Reid and called the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach, Matt Nagy, to begin preparation.
He had only one Friday practice — which focused on red-zone plays — to get ready.
So Daniel has been in this situation before.
The Bears, who had a walkthrough Tuesday, said Mitch Trubisky would not have participated in a full practice after injuring his right shoulder Sunday night against the Vikings. That leaves Daniel as the only healthy quarterback on the Bears’ active roster in the midst of a ridiculous 85-hour turnaround between games.
If he has to start Thursday against the Lions — and it seemed more likely Tuesday than it did the day before — Daniel will be ready.
“I’m never surprised if the situation were to come — whether it’s in the game or a starter gets hurt and you have a whole week to prepare, whether it’s a short week,” Daniel said. “I’ve been around long enough that, listen, I understand that opportunities don’t come very often. But if they do, you gotta take advantage of them.”
How rare are those chances?
Daniel, who at 32 is the Bears’ oldest player, has started two career games — both against the Chargers in Week 17. In 2013, he replaced Smith, whom the Chiefs rested with their playoff seed cemented.
In the Dec. 28, 2014, home game, Daniel completed his first nine passes and finished 16-for-27 for 157 yards. The Chiefs won 19-7.
“Chase didn’t blink,” Nagy said.
Since that day, he has thrown exactly three regular-season passes.
The Bears gave him a two-year, $10 million contract in March to mentor Trubisky and help him learn Nagy’s offense. Daniel spent 2013 to 2015 with the Chiefs before following former offensive coordinator Doug Pederson to Philadelphia in 2016.
Still, Daniel hadn’t received a first-team snap in Bears practice during the regular season — and the Bears only held a walkthrough Tuesday.
“But it’s the same offense that I was in for five years,” Daniel said. “So, for me, it’s mostly the same plays. We’ve got some tweaks here and there and obviously different personnel, but I know the offense like the back of my hand.”
He looked it in the preseason. Against the Chiefs’ starters — after Nagy notoriously sat his own in the name of health — he led the Bears to touchdowns on the first three drives. He finished 15-for-18 for 198 yards and a career-best 149.5 passer rating.
“The No. 1 thing that you learn about Chase when you’re around him is that in a really good way, he’s extremely confident in how he plays because he’s so smart,” Nagy said. “The game is not fast to him when he plays.”
Even if the turnaround between games is.
“What gives me confidence? Just his play, his preparation,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “He is uber-prepared, every single day, every single rep, to go out there and compete in practice, in meetings, in all of the things. . . .
“It’s hard to stay at that level mentally. And he does it every single day.”