The Bears are leaving open the possibility of quarterback Justin Fields returning from a dislocated thumb Thursday night against the Panthers. Coach Matt Eberflus said he is “still limited” and it likely will take until Wednesday to be sure of his status.
“We’ll look at … his functionality and see where it is,” Eberflus said Monday. “Guys coming off of injury, it always comes down to the medical staff clearing them, how the player feels he can function in the game, and then the coaches looking at it and saying, ‘Hey, yes, he could function at a high level and get the job done.’ It’s always those three factors.”
If Fields isn’t available, the Bears will start rookie Tyson Bagent for the fourth consecutive game.
The Bears’ biggest concern is whether Fields can grip the ball well enough to throw accurately and strongly and secure it when running. He threw for the first time Friday at practice.
Fields has been out since Oct. 15, when he dislocated the thumb on his throwing hand in a 19-13 loss to the Vikings. Bagent came in for him to finish that game and started the next three.
Fields threw for the first time Friday in practice, and general manager Ryan Poles said Sunday there was “definitely” a chance he could return against the Panthers.
The initial buzz over Bagent settled after losses to the Chargers and Saints. In four games, he has completed 67.3% of his passes, threw for 697 yards with three touchdown passes and six interceptions for a 70.9 passer rating.
“Bagent has done well … but if Justin is there and available and functional, we’ll go with him,” Eberflus said.
Fields put up big numbers against the Broncos and Commanders, but was struggling against the Vikings when he got hurt. For the season, he has completed 61.7% of his passes, averaged 200.2 yards passing per game and threw 11 touchdown passes against six interceptions for a 91.6 passer rating before the injury.
With the Bears expected to have two high draft picks next year (they get the Panthers’ first-round pick), Fields’ chance to prove himself as the franchise quarterback is shrinking.
“When he comes back, we want to see him perform at a high level,” Eberflus said.