LAKE FOREST – Maybe a fine is the best way to protect Bears starting quarterback Justin Fields.
Coach Matt Nagy joked Monday that maybe he would say that he fined the first-year quarterback for a spin move he likes to do when he runs but not really fine Fields.
Nagy is more interested in the rookie continuing to learn about the fast pace of the NFL and making situational decisions, especially on the run, after a few injuries against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
“He’s just going to have to continue to learn when that happens and understand that,” Nagy said. “We want to be smart with that, too. We have to be smart when we use him and how we use him.”
Fields’ first injury scare happened on the team’s second possession when he twisted his body and took a hit to his side when he tried to run for a first down. Team trainers examined Fields’ rib cage area, but he returned into the game on the team’s next offensive possession. He said after the game that he had the wind knocked out of him, which made the hit harder to recover from.
Later in the game, on another scramble, Fields hyperextended his left knee and struggled to pick himself up off the field. He spent a few minutes in the injury tent, bringing Andy Dalton into the game. He returned to the game in the next few minutes.
Nagy said Fields’ injury status didn’t change since the conclusion of Sunday’s game and he wouldn’t need any more tests.
The coach admitted it can be tough for a quarterback to think about being safe when he wants to reach a yard line for either a first down or touchdown. If it’s a normal scramble and he runs, then it’s easier to get down. But when there’s a line to reach, it can be hard for a player to remember to protect himself while trying to make a play.
Fields turns his back sometimes when he’s about to absorb a hit, but Nagy said that hasn’t been a point brought up by the coaches to Fields. Every play is different, and there are times when a tackle will catch a player in a funny way.
Nagy just wants his quarterback to be aware of the situation and know how to handle it at a fast pace.
”When you’re a ball carrier, anybody can hit you. When you’re a quarterback, they’re really going to want to hit you when you’re outside of the pocket,” Nagy said. “You just need to be smart.”
Players and coaches praised Fields for his toughness throughout Sunday’s game. Nagy knows quarterbacks are going to get hit in the pocket, but there are things the offensive play-callers can do to reduce hits through the game plan.
Although Nagy is proud of how tough his young quarterback is and knows his quarterback has a good feel for what to do on the run, he doesn’t want to find out exactly how tough he is.
”There are some guys who run more than others, and there are other guys who protect themselves more than others,” Nagy said. “I think the biggest thing with Justin is, I think he understands that he’s a quarterback. We want him to be smart with that.”