Sports

/

ArcaMax

QB Andy Dalton will start for Bears against Cardinals

Colleen Kane, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Football

CHICAGO — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is not expected to return from his ribs injury Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, but one of his fellow rookies could potentially see his first NFL game action.

Bears coach Matt Nagy named quarterback Andy Dalton the starter and Nick Foles the backup for the Week 13 game at Soldier Field, saying Fields is making progress but wasn’t ready to be medically cleared to play.

Meanwhile, the Bears have cleared rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins to be activated 3 1/2 months after he underwent back surgery. Jenkins, the No. 39 draft pick out of Oklahoma State in the spring, returned to practice Nov. 15 and is feeling good, Nagy said.

Nagy indicated Jenkins — for now — will be offensive line depth behind veteran left tackle Jason Peters and rookie right tackle Larry Borom, but he also could be used on the field-goal/extra-points team or in special situations. Nagy said a rotation with Borom midseason might be too difficult to execute.

“When you draft a guy you’re always anticipating how he’s going to play so the common answer would be yes (you want to see him),” Nagy said. “But at the same point he provides a lot of depth to us, and we have a position there at left tackle where Jason Peters is playing pretty well. And that’s a good thing, so you always need as many O-linemen as you can have. We’ve been on the other side where the injury bug has hit us, so it’s been difficult to get through that. But right now we like depth.”

The Bears’ depth at other positions will be tested, however. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is doubtful to play in the game because of a hamstring injury, and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is out with foot and ribs injuries. Defensive linemen Akiem Hicks (ankle) and Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs) and running back Damien Williams (calf) are also out. Inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who has a hamstring injury, returned to practice in a limited capacity and is questionable to play.

Dalton will start his second straight game in place of Fields, who broke his ribs against the Baltimore Ravens. Fields practiced in a limited capacity all week — including with the scout team — and Nagy said the rookie’s pain is improving.

 

“Progress is definitely the good word for him, being able to get out there in practice and throw the ball around and get used to doing the common stuff that you do,” Nagy said. “And now the biggest thing for him is just being able to understand, probably more than anything, just the pain management of how things feel. We’re obviously not going to go out there and hit him while he’s running around in practice and see. So it’s going to be a constant communication between him, our trainers, myself, just to how he’s feeling and how everything is going.”

Nagy said it has been important for Fields to get practice reps and stay focused in meetings so his development doesn’t go off course. Fields, who was listed as doubtful on the injury report Friday, has made seven starts but will have played just two quarters over more than a month when he eventually returns.

“Mentally he’s just as involved as if he was playing,” Nagy said. “Nothing changes, mentally. So he’s done a great job with that. Whether it’s in the install meetings in the morning, whether it’s in post-practice meetings, heavily involved, asking great questions.”

Dalton had only a short week of walk-throughs before leading the Bears to a win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving and said having the full-speed reps this week was helpful.

After losing the starting job to Fields when he suffered a bone bruise in his knee in Week 2, Dalton, who is on a one-year contract with the Bears, now has another chance to show how he’s capable of playing at this point in his career.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be out there,” Dalton, 34, said. “It’s a lot more fun to play than to be sitting on the sidelines. I’m just trying to make the most of it. I’m just trying to do everything I can to help this team win and be the best player that I can be for this team, and the rest of all that will take care of itself.”

©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.