LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields indicated he is being given too much information by the coaching staff and thinking too much as a result rather than trusting his instincts.
Fields said he played “kind of robotic” in last week’s loss at Tampa Bay.
“Could be coaching, I think,” he said Wednesday. “They are doing their job when they are giving me what to look at, but at the end of the day, I can’t be thinking about that when the game comes. I prepare myself throughout the week, and then when the game comes, it’s time to play free at that point. Thinking less and playing more.”
Fields’ comments at the podium come after two discouraging losses to start a season in which the Bears hope to show signs of improvement. He said later in the locker room that his quotes were taken out of context and that he is not blaming the coaches.
He struggled against Green Bay at Soldier Field and didn’t fare any better against the Buccaneers.
Fields was sacked six times and threw two late interceptions, helping Tampa Bay beat Chicago 27-17. The Bears have called few designed runs for him after he nearly set the NFL’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback last season. He remains uncomfortable in the pocket and, by his own admission, isn’t playing with the freedom he needs.
“I don’t think it’s too many coaching voices, but I just think when you’re fed a lot of information at a point in time and you’re trying to think about that info when you’re playing, it doesn’t let you play like yourself,” he said.
“You’re trying to process so much information to where it’s like, if I just simplify it in my mind I would have done this. I saw a few plays on Sunday, if I was playing like my old self, we would have had a positive play. There would have been more third down conversations. I think that’s just the biggest thing for me is playing the game how I know how to play and how I’ve been playing my whole life. That’s what I got to get back to doing.”
Fields’ 70.7 passer rating ranks among the worst in the NFL. He has been sacked 10 times — one shy of the league lead — with six of them coming against Tampa Bay. Though some were because of poor protection, Fields also held onto the ball too long at times. He cited a sack where he fumbled in the second quarter last week, saying he should have trusted his internal clock and taken off, instead.
“In the big scheme of things, I have to continue to be me and play the game how I play it,” he said. “I think when sometimes I’m coached, I think that I’ve had times where I’m like ‘OK, they want me to do it like this’ so I have to kind of change it. It’s probably more of a me thing than a coach thing.”
The Bears have also called few designed runs and haven’t moved the pocket the way they did last season, when he established himself as one of the NFL’s most exciting players. Some of that has to do with the defenses opposing teams are playing.
“A lot of times he wants to be perfect,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “He wants to do it the right way. And there’s a balance there, though, right. There’s a balance between, ’Hey, going through my progressions, but also having the ability to say, ‘Hey, I feel these things happening. Now I’m going to play instinctual.’ And that could be just sliding up in the pocket in the ‘B’ gap and delivering the ball, or taking off and running. I think that’s where that is.”
The question is whether the Bears are putting him in position to succeed. Fields said conversations with the coaches are productive and they’re receptive to his ideas.
“Everybody in here knows that I need to play better, including myself,” he said. “They’re not going to take it personal if us as players go to them and say, ‘I didn’t like this call’. They need to be better. We’re all grown men in the building and we all can take it.”
NOTES: The Bears placed left tackle Braxton Jones (neck) on injured reserve. He will miss at least four games, and Eberflus would not say if he is done for the season. “We don’t have timetables on it right now,” he said. … Right guard Nate Davis rejoined the team after missing a game for personal reasons.
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