The Chicago Bears need to see more of quarterback Justin Fields with contract questions, such as his fifth-year option, approaching after this season.
It’s possible their injured starter could return Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers following three missed starts, but the shorter work schedule is going to prevent them from knowing for certain until later in the week.
“We’ll look at it (Monday), look at how he’s doing today, his functionality and see where it is,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “Guys coming off of injury, it always comes down to the medical staff clearing them, how the player feels he can function in the game, and then the coaches looking at it and say, ‘Hey, yes, he could function at a high level and get the job done.’ So it’s always those three factors.”
Fields was just starting to heat up when he went down with the thumb injury. He had back-to-back starts with four touchdown passes, then was injured halfway through a loss to Minnesota Oct. 15.
Replacement Tyson Bagent’s three interceptions and three fourth-quarter turnovers Sunday in a 24-17 loss to New Orleans make Fields’ return seem more necessary, but the Bears are not entirely discouraged about the play of their rookie backup. He might need to start again.
“Obviously, he played really well through three quarters and we’re excited where he is,” Eberflus said. “I think he had 271 yards through three quarters in terms of passing and running, so we feel good where he is.
“But if Justin is there and is available and is functional, we will go with him. So we’ll see where it is.”
Fields had thrown at practice Friday, but still hadn’t regained full strength in his dislocated right thumb.
The running game, after being slowed to 73 yards rushing against the Los Angeles Chargers, bounced back big behind D’Onta Foreman with 83 yards. They had 156 team rushing yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The pass rush just got newly acquired Montez Sweat involved on third downs and passing situations after last week’s trade, and it didn’t pay immediate dividends. They had no sacks and two quarterback hits against the Saints. In nine games, the entire team has 10 sacks, but remains hopeful he’ll have an impact.
“I think he made it available for everybody to get one on ones,” defensive tackle Andrew Billings said. “I think now we have a full threat on this line and it’s really going to help out as far as offensive linemen just not focusing on one player each snap, that they have to spread out the work.”
Wide receiver Darnell Mooney had by far his best game of the season after coming out of offseason ankle surgery. Mooney had season highs of five catches and 82 yards, including a 38-yard catch.
“Obviously we have to do more of that whether it be me, Cole (Kmet), DJ (Moore), it’s the same thing every time,” Mooney said. “You get the ball in those guys’ hands and make plays and things go good with the offense. So we just need to do more of those things.”
Moore made three catches for 44 yards and lost a fumble against the Saints. He hasn’t had more than 55 yards receiving in a game since Oct. 5 on a Thursday night when he had 230 yards against Washington.
The Bears will have starting safety Jaquan Brisker back from a concussion on Thursday for the game with Carolina. Fullback Khari Blasingame suffered a concussion Sunday and has been ruled out for Thursday.
Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson had a lower leg injury and more will be known later in the week.
The Bears have also started the 21-day windows to consider running back Khalil Herbert (ankle), wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (hamstring) and cornerback Josh Blackwell (hamstring) for returns from injured reserve.
Five — The Bears had five turnovers Sunday, the fifth time in six losses that they lost the turnover battle.
A Thursday night game at Soldier Field on short rest is followed by two straight road games.
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