The Bears placed starting quarterback Justin Fields on the COVID-19 list Thursday morning.
The move came one day after head coach Matt Nagy announced that Fields was likely to start in Sunday’s season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.
Fields had missed two straight games because of an ankle injury, but appeared to be on his way back this week. The rookie quarterback has said in the past that he is fully vaccinated.
According to the league’s recent COVID-19 protocol update, fully vaccinated players can test out of the COVID-19 protocol within a day, provided they are symptom-free. But Fields would need a quick turnaround. The team typically flies Saturday’s before a Sunday game, which gives him only two days to potentially test out before heading to Minnesota.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy was not made available to the media Thursday, but offensive coordinator Bill Lazor confirmed that both veteran quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Nick Foles are available this week.
“We’ve started three different quarterbacks this year,” Lazor said. “We’ve got guys who can go in and win games. There’s a great level of confidence with Andy and Nick.”
Presumably, Dalton would start if Fields were unavailable Sunday. Dalton started ahead of Foles in last week’s 29-3 victory over the New York Giants.
The hope had been that Fields would start Sunday and end his rookie season on the field. Every snap is valuable for a rookie quarterback. This unforeseen setback puts a halt to that plan. Even if Fields can test out by this weekend, a huge if, the team is going to have to prepare and practice this week with somebody at quarterback – and it won’t be Fields.
Lazor said Thursday that, whether Fields plays Sunday or not, he hopes the rookie steps away from his first NFL season knowing that he belongs in the league and he can play with the best of them.
“I want him to come out of this with confidence,” Lazor said. “I want him to realize that we were behind against the Steelers in the fourth quarter and he was able to take the offense down and score. ... He was on the big stage of Monday Night Football, of whatever situation we were in, and was able to perform. I know it sounds silly because he’s done it, frankly, his whole life. But still, we’re all human.”
If Fields misses Sunday’s game, he will have missed five and a half games since becoming the starter in late September. He sat out the second half against Baltimore on Nov. 21 because of a rib injury, which kept him sidelined for the next two games. He missed the two most recent games because of an ankle injury. Now, COVID-19 has him sidelined, at least as of now.
The Bears have had their fair share of COVID-19 issues in recent weeks, but Fields is one of only two players currently on the COVID-19 list. Practice squad linebacker Charles Snowden is the other.
“I definitely feel for him,” said rookie right tackle Larry Borom, who also spent time on the COVID-19 list this season. “It’s tough to be doing something one day, then all of the sudden boom you’re stuck in your house or a hotel or whatever it may be quarantining an X-amount of days by yourself.”