Andy Dalton: Justin Fields ‘is going to have a great career — but right now it’s my time’Patrick Finleyon August 18, 2021 at 6:35 pm

Andy Dalton will get more than six plays Saturday to try to change the city-wide narrative about the Bears’ quarterback competition-that-isn’t-really-one against rookie Justin Fields.

Not that he’s thinking about it that way.

“You can’t focus on that,” he said after practice Wednesday. “If you focus on that, then that’s gonna beat you down. And so I know who I am, I know who I was created to be, I know where my identity lies.

“And so do I want the fans behind me and this team and all that kind of stuff? Yes. Do I want them behind Justin? Absolutely, I do.”

Fields gave Bears fans plenty to cheer in the first exhibition game. Dalton did not. failing to garner a first down over two drives — one came back on an Alex Bars holding call — and completing 2-of-4 passes for 18 yards. He ran six plays before giving way to Fields.

Dalton, though, remains the Bears’ unquestioned Week 1 starter — even as Bears fans breathlessly wait for coach Matt Nagy to give the job, eventually, to Fields.

“Justin is going to have his time and Justin is going to have a great career,” Dalton said. “But right now it’s my time. And so my focus is on being the best player I can be for this team and do everything I can to help this team win.’

That sound awfully similar to Mike Glennon’s “this-is-my-year” declaration in 2017 after the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky. But Dalton has the self-confidence and the resume never had. Glennon at the time had started 18 games and thrown 30 touchdowns; Dalton has 142 and 218, respectively. Dalton has thus far managed a potentially awkward situation remarkably well, even as he knows the ovation that awaits the rookie Saturday.

“I mean, he’s a first-round pick and just with everything that’s gone on here, there’s a lot of excitement with it,” Dalton said. “But I didn’t feel like there wasn’t excitement for me either, you know. So it’s like, yeah, I think for us if we just go out and operate how we know we can do, I think the fans will be excited when we score lots of touchdowns this year.”

Fields struggled in practice Tuesday. His development hit a roadblock Wednesday, as he threw only a few passes in practice because of a groin injury. Bears coach Matt Nagy said he hoped Fields would be able to play Saturday — exhibitions are valuable for his development, and for the Bears’ ability to evaluate him in a game setting.

With or without Fields, Dalton will play more Saturday than he did in the opener — at least twice as many snaps as he got last week. His goals are simple.

“You just want to see the offense operate the way it’s supposed to …” he said. “I just want to be efficient and set the standard of how we’re going to be getting in and out of the huddle, how we’re going to move the ball and all that kind of stuff. …

“This week, obviously, we’ll have a chance to get in more of a rhythm.”

Dalton was sharp in practice again Wednesday. He’s been solid for the past three weeks –safety Tashaun Gipson said Dalton’s had a “super-fine camp” — but it’s human nature for him to want to show a stadium full of people that the offense is good hands.

“I think that’s the biggest thing is, alright, this is what it’s like to be playing some real football,” he said. “Fans in the stands, there’s some emotion involved, and you’ve still got to be at your best.”

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