LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) — As he missed the last four games with a right thumb injury, Justin Fields was aware of the conversation about the Bears' quarterback situation, including the narratives suggesting that undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent should be the team's full-time starter.
Fields is now set to return to action Sunday against the Lions and has the opportunity to answer any critics with his play. As he gets back under center for the Bears, Fields stressed he wasn't surprised by the external noise.
“That's the world we live in nowadays,” Fields said Wednesday after working as a full participant in practice. “Everybody wants to cause a stir, cause media attention, boom, boom, boom, comments, stories. That's just what comes with it. But I knew that was going to happen from the get-go. So, it came to me as no surprise.”
The Bears went 2-2 with Bagent under center. An undrafted rookie out of Division-II Shepherd University whose story garnered national attention during Fields’ absence, Bagent threw for 859 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions across five games since stepping in when Fields was injured during a game on Oct. 15.
The 24-year-old Fields, who was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, had thrown for 1,201 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games prior to suffering his injury.
All along as Fields recovered from his injury, coach Matt Eberflus and the Bears publicly refuted the notion that there was a quarterback battle in play.
“I feel like the longer I was out, the more I wanted to play,” Fields said.
In his third NFL season, Fields is facing pressure to perform and prove his place in the Bears’ long-term future. The team is set to re-evaluate its quarterback position this offseason and will likely boast a pair of top-10 selections in the draft. Fields’ future also includes a looming decision the Bears must make this coming offseason on the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. It's a procedural move that will carry great significance.
As all that awaits, seven games remain in this regular season for Fields to showcase himself.
“Seven (games) is enough time to show consistency and being the high performer that we expect him to be,” Eberflus said.
Fields was close to returning for the Bears’ win against the Panthers last Thursday night, but he was held out of action after the team’s training staff recommended additional time to allow for further healing. The Bears took the cautious approach with both the present and future in mind for Fields.
The Bears intend to evaluate Fields throughout this week before officially declaring he'll start Sunday at Ford Field. But barring a setback in practice, he'll return for a defining stretch in his young career.
Fields recognizes what's at stake for him personally in the final seven games, but in his mind, it's all about the Bears first.
"Just go out there and win games,” Fields said. “I'm not here to prove anything to anybody. I'm playing for my teammates, playing for the coaches and that's it. Everything else will take care of itself."
Bears right guard Nate Davis (ankle) was a full participant in practice Wednesday and is in line to start Sunday. Running back Khalil Herbert (ankle/shin), linebacker Jack Sanborn (ankle) and running back D'Onta Foreman (ankle) were limited participants. The team must activate Herbert from injured reserve by Saturday in order for him to be eligible to play Sunday.
Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (knee) didn't practice but has been running and testing his mobility with the Bears' training staff. Edmunds is "optimistic" he can play Sunday, Eberflus said.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.