Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune
quotes head coach Matt Eberflus on why Justin Fields didn’t play at quarterback Sunday against the New York Jets.
“The medical staff didn’t clear him to play today,” Eberflus said. “Justin didn’t feel he could protect himself and perform the way he wanted to perform. It’s about mobility and strength in his left arm. We’ll take it day by day.”
This is a reasonably confusing statement to me. However, I do think I figured out what happened here.
At least two national outlets over the last two days reported that Fields was “trying to convince the Bears that he could play”. Jets CB C.J. Mosley had similar thoughts.
“We were definitely expecting Fields to play, just knowing him being a franchise quarterback, being a young quarterback, wanting to be out there with his team,” Mosley said. “It didn’t happen.”
However, that seems to be untrue based upon what Eberflus said. Fields didn’t feel that he could come protect himself and decided not to play.
The question may be “if the medical staff didn’t clear him” why did Fields have a choice at all?
I think what happened here is that the medical staff may have been ready to clear Fields. However ultimately the decision about whether he felt he could play or not was up to him. After he made the decision, the medical staff didn’t “clear him” because he didn’t think he could protect himself.
It makes sense if Fields made the first decision. It makes no sense if the medical staff did.
The distinction is subtle but important. The suggestion is that Fields wasn’t trying to play at all costs yesterday.
I’m not say that’s wrong. After all, we aren’t on a playoff push here. And I’m certainly not saying that Fields is not tough or that he doesn’t have a desire to play football. But the fact that he likely took a pragmatic approach to the situation and made a decision not to play when many players would go out and play at all costs – as implied by the national media outlets and as expected by at least some Jets players – tells us something about him.