LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was adamant Sunday that quarterback Justin Fields would play in the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings as long as he was deemed healthy.
"It will be [general manager Ryan Poles] and I talking about it," Eberflus said after the Bears' 41-10 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. "If he's healthy, he's going. He's got to get the experience. He's got to play, learn and get better every single week."
But Eberflus struck a different note Monday during his weekly debrief at Halas Hall.
When asked if the Bears were contemplating not playing some key players against the Vikings, Eberflus said they are still discussing those decisions. That includes Fields.
"We're working on that, on everybody including Justin," Eberflus said. "And we're going to visit with Ryan, the rest of the coaching staff. The health of the football team, the entire health of the team to me is -- where we were two weeks ago is different than where we are now. So I think it's important that we evaluate that."
But Eberflus later reiterated that if Fields is deemed healthy, he will play.
The definition of healthy is, of course, up for interpretation.
"I would just say that ongoing conversations about everybody," Eberflus said. "What we need to do, what's the best interest for our football team going forward. That conversation we're going to have that all the way through Wednesday, all the way through Friday, and we'll decide as we go.
"I would just say the health of our football team is important," Eberflus later said. "And that ties into everybody. So again, we’re gonna look at everybody on our football team and making sure that we’re doing what’s best for the Bears."
The Bears have lost nine straight games and would own the rights to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft if the season ended today.
But the draft picture is in flux entering Week 18.
A win against the Vikings could see the Bears fall from No. 2 to No. 4 if the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals both lose.
The Vikings have little to play for Sunday (they have an outside chance of earning the No. 2 seed with a 49ers loss), so there's a chance Minnesota will opt to rest most of its key players in preparation for Wild Card Weekend.
Fields beating the Vikings' backups and hurting the Bears' draft position is something Poles will have to take into consideration. He should also look at how ineffective the Bears' beat-up offensive line was Sunday in Detroit as reason to sit Fields.
The Lions sacked Fields seven times and registered nine quarterback hits. Starting right guard Teven Jenkins left the game with a neck injury and backup Michael Schofield was carted off after suffering a knee injury. The Bears finished the game with third-string guard Dieter Eiselen manning right guard and are thin up front.
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Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said last week they would continue to play Fields but wouldn't "put him in harm's way."
Putting Fields out there behind a suspect offensive line is playing with fire. One that can significantly burn the Bears if Fields gets injured heading into a critical offseason.
I understand the need for Fields to log experience. He needs to reps to grow, especially as a passer. But there comes a point where his health and the direction of the franchise have to outweigh whatever experience Fields might get playing in a meaningless Week 18 game.
We'll see what the Bears prioritize as the week draws on.