LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) – When Bears quarterback Justin Fields made the long walk back from the far practice fields of Halas Hall and to the locker room Wednesday afternoon, he became aware of how comments he made about the team’s coaching staff three hours earlier were being perceived.
Fields had called upon the Bears’ coaching staff to help him play more “free,” believing he had been too “robotic” early this season. Fields made those comments in the context of the coaching staff emphasizing his need to work in the pocket more and admitted he sometimes overthinks on the field.
When Fields viewed the external reaction on a cell phone after practice, he felt his comments were being mischaracterized. It’s why he then called reporters back to his locker after practice and addressed the media for a second time Wednesday. He wanted to clarify his remarks. Then, Fields went upstairs to the second floor of Halas Hall and met with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
A day later, Bears moved forward by showing their support for the 24-year-old Fields, who understands the significance of his third NFL season.
“I can’t be more clear than this,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said Thursday morning. “No one in our entire building, none of our coaches, see Justin as a finger-pointer at all. That kid is always taking ownership of anything that has happened on the field. He takes it head on. He works. He grinds. He puts his head down. He works with his teammates. He works with his coaches to find solutions.
“You got a young quarterback trying to figure it out. You have a guy who hasn't had the cleanest start to his career, who last year with the roster had to put the team on his back, do some unbelievable things athletically. Now, he gets talent around him and has to figure out and balance when to do those cool things athletically, when to lean on others, and that is sometimes a gray place to live in. That takes time. That takes time on task for him to take that next step, and everyone is on board helping him get into that place for him to be successful.
“I thought he took ownership of everything. He didn’t have to say anything about that. Our coaches are like, ‘How can we make you better? How can we help you be successful?’ And there’s always that balance. No one took it personally.”
Fields had already met with Getsy and the Bears’ coaching staff earlier in the week to review his performance in Chicago’s 27-17 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday. Fields’ play had left him frustrated,
The No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Fields has completed 59.8% of his passes for 4,539 yards, 26 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 29 games (including 27 starts) in his NFL career. In 2022, Fields rushed for 1,143 yards, the second-most by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history, and eight touchdowns on the ground.
In March, the Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft to the Panthers. In doing so, they elected keep Fields as their starting quarterback and made key investments around him on offense. The Bears acquired dynamic receiver DJ Moore in that blockbuster trade, then signed right guard Nate Davis in free agency and drafted right tackle Darnell Wright at No. 10 overall.
It’s still been a tough start, with the Bears sitting at 0-2 as they head to Kansas City to face the defending champion Chiefs (1-1) on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bears are riding a franchise-worst 12-game losing streak dating back to the middle of last season, and Fields is 5-22 in his career as a starter.
“He’s so passionate, and he wants to win as much as anybody in the building,” Getsy said. “But it’s more important for him to be a man of character.
“Our relationship, our partnership, is outstanding. I think that part of it, we’re going to continue to grow.”
Fields began his scheduled Wednesday media availability by responding to a question about his performance in the loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday. He quickly pointed to how the Bears can improve the scheme around him.
“I felt like I wasn’t necessarily playing my game,” Fields said. “I felt like I was robotic and not playing like myself. So, my goal this week is to say, ‘F it’ and just go out there and play football how I know how to play football. That includes thinking less and going out there and playing off of instincts rather than just off so much info in my head, data in my head.
“Going back to (how) it’s a game and that’s it. Because, that’s when I play my best, is when I’m just out there free and being myself. Just kind of bump all (of) what I should do, this and that, pocket stuff. I’m going to go out there and be me.
The Bears have been mired in “adversity,” as Poles himself said Thursday. In addition to the poor start, defensive coordinator Alan Williams abruptly resigned Wednesday. Fields’ comments about the coaching staff were just a part of what the team has had to address internally at Halas Hall.
Through it all, Fields is focused on responding well and making the most of his next opportunity.
"The guy has been successful the moment he stepped into high school football,” Poles said. “So, he’s dealing with adversity and dealing with taking his game to the next level through many different situations and change. I think that’s where you get the frustration from.
“I thought he took ownership of everything. He didn’t have to say anything about that. Our coaches are like, ‘How can we make you better? How can we help you be successful?’ And there’s always that balance. No one took it personally."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.