Justin Fields

Jaylon Johnson gives honest answer about how locker room will handle Justin Fields exit

The Bears see the writing on the wall

NBC Universal, Inc.

LAKE FOREST -- Jaylon Johnson has been one of the most vocal supporters of quarterback Justin Fields in the Bears' locker room.

Johnson, along with wide receiver DJ Moore, tight end Cole Kmet, and others, spent the better part of the second half of the 2023 season pounding the table for the Bears to keep Fields and build around him.

Despite the locker room's desire to keep Fields, it became clear at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine that the Bears plan to draft a quarterback—likely Caleb Williams—with the No. 1 overall pick and trade Fields to a yet-to-be-found suitor.

With that writing on the wall, Johnson was asked Monday how he thinks the pro-Fields locker room will handle the arrival of a new quarterback.

"Be wary of? I can’t say that. I feel like at the end of the day, we know the business that we’re in," Johnson said Monday at Halas Hall during the press conference to announce his contract extension. "So I feel like it wouldn’t be mature of us as a locker room not to rally together in spite of having Justin leave. I know what it would do to keep him here. I know how we would feel with him here, but I feel like at the end of the day, we’ll all have our opinions, our emotions, but as far as the locker room staying together, I think we have the right guys in the locker room to keep everything together, to keep us together.

"And I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all here to win ballgames. So I don’t think it’s about necessarily our feelings or, ‘Oh, well, you did this.’ We’re all here to win games. So whoever Poles brings in, whoever the staff brings in to help us win games, that’s who we’re going to rock with."

Moore, Kmet, and linebacker T.J. Edwards have also acknowledged they are bracing for change at the quarterback position.

"You know, it's it's one of those things where, I mean, I've been in the league for a minute and understand how it goes. And it's a business," Edwards told NBC Sports Chicago. "And, you know, I think, you know, when you've been around certain guys, all you can do is really just -- you wish the people who treat you well and the people who act the right way, you know, you just wish them well no matter what happens and you root for him."

Kmet understands the difficult position the Bears' front office is in. While Fields has shown flashes, the team hasn't won enough with him under center to remove all doubt that he's the franchise's long-term answer.

"He's been awesome since the beginning. The way he's just handled the whole environment in Chicago has been really impressive," Kmet told NBC Sports Chicago. "It's not an easy place to play, especially when you're not winning. But he just keeps coming to work every day. You've seen him be the same guy every Wednesday when we come back from a game. You've seen him improve despite whatever is going on. You know, with whatever happens, understand that it's a business. They are going to have decisions to make upstairs, but, you know, I have full faith in Justin wherever he's at -- with us or with some other NFL team.

"I really don't give my preference on things. I know that they are going to make decisions that they feel are best one way or the other. Obviously, I have a good rapport with Justin over the past couple of years, and I've seen my game continue to elevate with him at quarterback. But at the end of the day, they are going to make decisions that lead to winning, and unfortunately, we haven't done enough of that over the past couple of seasons."

The trade market for Fields is currently soft. The Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers were viewed as the most likely landing spots, but both teams addressed their quarterback need in free agency by agreeing to sign Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson, respectively.

The Bears will be patient as they wait for a Fields suitor to emerge, but it has become clear that Chicago will have a new signal-caller next season.

One the Bears' locker room will "rock with" while rooting for Fields to succeed elsewhere.

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