Bears' Justin Fields out Sunday, ending shot at QB rushing mark

ByCourtney Cronin ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 4, 2023

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Bears quarterback Justin Fields has been ruled out of Chicago's season finale against the Vikings due to a hip injury sustained in a Week 17 loss at the Detroit Lions.

Backup Nathan Peterman will start at quarterback against the Vikings at Soldier Field.

Fields finishes his second NFL season 64 yards shy of setting the single-season quarterback rushing record, which Lamar Jackson reached during the 2019 season (1,206 yards). Fields rushed for 132 yards on 10 attempts against the Lions, including 105 yards in the first quarter, the most by a quarterback in a quarter over the last 45 seasons.

Coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday that Fields complained of hip soreness Monday and was sent to get an MRI, which revealed the quarterback suffered a strain.

Following a 41-10 loss to the Lions last Sunday, Fields said he injured his hip on a roll-out play in the first half which required a brief visit to the medical tent.

After initially stating that Fields would play against the Vikings "if healthy" following the Lions loss, Eberflus' tone changed Monday. When asked about the status of Fields and other starters who would be expected to suit up in the finale, Eberflus said that he and the coaching staff would meet with general manager Ryan Poles to evaluate the roster because the health of the entire team from "where we were two weeks ago is different than where we are now."

The Bears held a walk-through in lieu of a normal practice Wednesday to give players' bodies another day to rest. Eberflus expressed optimism that Fields' hip strain is not a long-term concern.

"He's just not able to go full speed," Eberflus said Wednesday. "I asked him how it was today, and he said it's still real sore."

Sunday's game against Minnesota carries significant implications as it relates to draft positioning. Should the Bears lose to the Vikings and the Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago would jump Houston in the draft order and earn the No. 1 overall pick. The Bears currently hold the No. 2 selection in the draft.

Eberflus insisted that Fields' being ruled out for the season finale was due to injury, not an attempt for the team to improve its draft positioning.

"I would just go back to our normal operating procedure," Eberflus said. "So, what is it? It's the medical staff, so he didn't clear that hurdle. So, if he'd have cleared that hurdle, then we'd have to go to the next one, which is the coaches. Is he functioning the way he can function to protect himself, right? Then it's the player. Does he feel good about doing that. So, he didn't clear the first one. So, that's just where it is."

Peterman said he was made aware on Wednesday that he would be starting against Minnesota. His last start came with the Buffalo Bills in 2018.

"It's an awesome opportunity," Peterman said. "It's been a few years. Still have gotten to play a lot of football in preseason or whatnot, but obviously a regular-season game is an amazing opportunity and I'm looking forward to it. It's been a lot of hard work putting into this season and a lot of ups and downs obviously, but to go out on a great note, have some fun and just go out and play football is going to be a good thing. Excited for it."

While Fields' dynamic rushing ability was put on display in 2022, Chicago owned the worst passing attack in the NFL at 129.9 yards per game. The Bears averaged 31 points per game from Weeks 7-10 but could not sustain a high scoring attack.

When asked whether he could evaluate the areas where Fields had grown as a passer versus those that receive an incomplete grade, Eberflus pointed to a handful of mitigating factors that helped and hindered the 23-year-old quarterback as he aimed to improve as a passer.

"I would say that it's probably both, to be honest," Eberflus said. "I think that he did make improvement, though. You could see where he improved. The scoring offense was hitting on all cylinders midway or a little bit past that. I think that he had a lot of lineup changes with the receivers and offensive line and the running back going out and all those things. But that certainly is impactful to the offense. So, you have to be able to look at that."

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