Justin Fields could start (wink, wink) vs. LionsMark Potashon November 22, 2021 at 8:33 pm

Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1, being tackled by Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser) completed 4-of-11 passes for 79 yards and was sacked twice against the Ravens before leaving with an injury to his ribs early in the third quarter. | Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It defies logic that Fields would play against the winless Lions four days after leaving Sunday’s game with a rib injury. But Matt Nagy wasn’t ready to commit to logical choice Andy Dalton yet.

By logic and common sense, veteran Andy Dalton should start at quarterback for the Bears against the Lions on Thursday at Ford Field, with rookie Justin Fields nursing injured ribs on a short week.

But coach Matt Nagy wasn’t ready to go there Monday.

For the record, Nagy still holds out hope that Fields can start against the Lions after his injured ribs forced him out of the Bears’ 16-13 loss to the Ravens on Sunday at Soldier Field early in the third quarter.

“We’re still gathering the facts with everything,” Nagy said of Fields’ injury. “We’re still getting him looked at [Monday] morning, so we’ll see where that goes. Obviously we’ve got to be prepared for whether he’s able to go or not able to go.”

That, actually, is a matter of opinion. What’s obvious to many is that Fields should not be playing in an NFL game four days after leaving the previous one with an injury to his ribs. Even Nagy acknowledged that a rib injury can make breathing and sleeping problematic, let alone functioning as a quarterback at live-game speed.

But even if Fields can tough it out and overcome those issues, subjecting him to the physical punishment of an NFL game days after he suffered the initial injury seems unwise, if not irresponsible. This is the future of the franchise. The Bears are 3-7. They’re playing the 0-9-1 Lions.

Nagy has to know this in his heart of hearts. But he is prone to fits of gamesmanship, and the chance to leave the Lions in the dark about the opposing quarterback — especially on a short week — is probably too good for him to pass up. Nagy wouldn’t even confirm that Fields does not have broken ribs (“I can’t rule out anything,”) even though any reputable NFL organization would know by Monday.

So why not just play Dalton against the Lions and give Fields two weeks to get healthy? Even Nagy seemed to talk himself in that direction when he answered that question.

“I think where he’s at and the way he’s been growing and just for him to get these reps,” Nagy said. “At the same time, there is a safety issue, too, with making sure he doesn’t get to a point where things get worse. So we’ve got to monitor that.

“Regardless of everything, we always want to make sure that we’re not putting our players at more risk regardless of who you are. Obviously, there’s more magnitude to everybody else — and to us — with Justin. And being the quarterback and touching the football every play and throwing and that sort of thing. So we’ll have to keep that in mind.”

Indeed, they will.

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