LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Justin Fields returned to practice in full this week after missing four games with a dislocated right thumb. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus announced Monday that Fields was expected to start Sunday against the Detroit Lions as long as the quarterback progressed as expected throughout the week.
Consider that box checked.
"I thought he improved," Eberflus said Friday at Halas Hall of Fields' week of practice. "I thought he got a feel for where he was and I thought he improved every single day. You get that timing with the receivers on the concepts you’re running that particular week. I thought he got his footwork back where it needed to be. And I thought the accuracy was good, got better as the week went. I thought he was good."
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Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Thursday that the biggest challenge of getting Fields back in sync after a month on the shelf was seeing how much the third-year signal-caller is able to handle in his first live-action in four weeks.
"We're still going through that to see how far he can take everything," Getsy said Thursday. "The reps are important, and just making sure he feels comfortable and ready to rock and roll is really the most important thing."
During his four-week absence, Fields stayed locked in and mentally prepared as if he was going to play each week. On Sundays, Fields wore a headset to listen to Getsy call the game and tried to mentally play the game in his head.
With his mind sharp and his body rested, Fields is champing at the bit to return for a key seven-game stretch that will play a role in determining his future with the organization.
After easing back into practice in a limited fashion, Fields and his still-healing thumb are in a good place heading into Detroit.
"It feels pretty good," Fields said Wednesday. "Just getting back into things. Feels good to throw. Arm feels fresh. Feel good."
Two questions remain about Fields' return Sunday in Detroit.
The first concerns whether or not he will wear anything to support his thumb and aid his grip on Sunday. When he first returned to practice, Fields wore a glove on his right hand but quickly ditched it. He also tried a glove with the thumb cut out and a wrap. Lately, he has just some supportive tape.
"Taped it up today at practice," Fields said. "We’ll see how it is feeling on Sunday and whether I need tape or not. I tried the glove at first, just because I didn’t have to grip the ball as much with the glove. So but. I didn’t really feel too comfortable with the glove on."
The second thing the Bears need to determine is how much they'll balance shotgun snaps versus under center with Fields' thumb.
"That's part of the progression of the week, trying to figure that out - what he's feeling great about, what he's feeling comfortable with," Getsy said. "Haven't narrowed that down ust exactly yet. But feel good about being able to do a lot of different things so far, and he's handled the week pretty good."
The Bears went 2-2 in Fields' absence, with undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent at the helm. Bagent proved to be a capable backup during his month as QB1, but getting Fields back will give the 3-7 Bears a jolt of energy as they prepare for the stretch run.
"There’s an excitement, no doubt," Eberlfus said. "I think that certainly having our starter back is definitely a boost. You could see the defense getting excited about it and talking to him on the side in the building, and certainly, the offensive guys were excited about it. You could see it in walkthrough how the energy was there. Yeah, definitely could see it."