Tue, 18 Jan 2022

Bears QB Justin Fields faces big challenge in return vs. Packers

Field Level Media
09 Dec 2021, 11:19 GMT+10

Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields accounted for 217 yards of total offense and passed for a touchdown in the Bears' Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

After missing the past two games with injured ribs, Fields is hoping to build on that effort -- and ideally reverse the result --as he returns as the starter under center when the Bears (4-8) visit the NFC North-leading Packers (9-3) on Sunday night.

Bears coach Matt Nagy confirmed the move this week, saying Fields is healthy and fully cleared.

"I mean, yeah, there's pain there, but I mean, the pain's just not unbearable," Fields said. "I know there's gonna be pain there but I mean, it is what it is. You have three cracked ribs, of course there's gonna be pain. As long as it's just not crazy pain where I can't bear it, I'm gonna play and practice."

Losers of six of their last seven games, the Bears will take any jolt available against the Packers, who are coming off their bye week.

For a time, Fields had supplied the charge, steadily progressing since taking over as the starter in Week 3. His most recent start, in Week 9 at Pittsburgh, was his best to date, as Fields passed for 291 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushed for 45 yards in a 29-27 defeat.

Fields was injured early in the first half of the Bears' Week 11 game against Baltimore. Andy Dalton went 1-1 in relief but threw four interceptions in last week's 33-22 home loss to Arizona.

If there's anyone second-guessing the move -- also necessitated by a Dalton injury to his non-throwing hand against Arizona -- Fields seemingly welcomes it.

"I like being the underdog. ... I like when people doubt me," he said.

Green Bay is trying to keep pace with Arizona atop the conference. The Packers topped the Los Angeles Rams 36-28 in Week 12 before their bye.

Cornerback Jaire Alexander, sidelined since Oct. 3 with a shoulder injury, had limited participation in Wednesday's practice. Linebacker Za'Darius Smith (back), who has been out since Week 1, and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who hasn't played since late last season, may also be nearing a return to the practice field.

"We'll take it day by day with all those guys and we'll see where we're at at the end of the week," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "Trust me, they want to get out there as bad as anybody."

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to play as he looks to surpass 300 yards passing for the third straight week.

Rodgers indicated he fractured a pinky toe in November while quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. While the injury didn't prevent Rodgers from taking the field, it impacted his practice time.

The three-time NFL MVP practiced once ahead of a Nov. 21 loss at Minnesota, and missed practice the following week as the team prepared to host the Rams.

Rodgers said this week he doesn't regret shouting to a pocket of jeering Bears fans, "I own you!" after running for a fourth-quarter touchdown that capped the scoring in the Packers' 24-14 road win in Week 6. Rodgers passed for two scores earlier in the game and is 22-5 against Chicago in his career, postseason included, while winning his past five starts.

"I don't know if you can question a whole lot of what I said. We've had a good record over the years against them and won a lot of games," Rodgers said.

--Field Level Media

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