Bears Insider

Stroud defends Fields, doesn't want Bears to draft him

Bears Insider
Justin Fields, C.J. Stroud

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is expected to be one of the first players taken in April's 2023 NFL Draft. The Bears will remain connected to all of the top quarterbacks until general manager Ryan Poles trades the No. 1 overall pick.

Stroud spoke Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. When asked the boilerplate, "how would you feel if the Bears drafted you, and what would it mean for Justin Fields" question, Stroud raised some eyebrows.

“I mean, no, I don’t want to go there,” Stroud said. “That’s his team. I can do my thing. I can go build my legacy. Me and him are brothers for life.”

Rumors have swirled all offseason about the Bears' potential desire to trade Fields and draft either Stroud or Alabama's Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick.

On Tuesday, Poles reaffirmed that Fields would be his starting quarterback in 2023 while listing off all of the qualities a prospect would have to demonstrate to "blow him away" and move on from Fields.

Fields took a step forward in 2022. Surrounded by few playmakers and protected by a bad offensive line, Fields used his legs to announce himself to the league. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season and likely would have broken Lamar Jackson's single-season rushing record had he not been forced to miss two games with a shoulder and hip injury.


Still, for all his rushing success, Fields struggled to win from the pocket.

He eclipsed the 200-yard mark in only two of 15 starts and had five games where he completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes.

The Bears hope Fields will take significant strides as a passer when given better weapons and more protection in 2023.

Stroud watched the beating Fields took behind Chicago's patchwork offensive line. He loved how his former teammate responded to adversity and made it known that Justin Fields can and will win with his arm in the NFL.

“I was proud of him,” Stroud said. “There’s so many times when you get knocked down, but I feel like a true man’s character is when you get knocked down, you get back up. And he’s gotten up every time and he’s stepped up to the plate and he hasn’t blamed nobody, he hasn’t pointed no fingers or anything. That just shows you what type of man he is and what type of family he comes from. You get hit so many times in the face, and you have to make plays using your feet.

"And he ain’t no damn running back. He’s a quarterback. He can sling that rock. I’m gonna stand up for my brother every time, and he’s gonna do great things in his career and I’m excited to play with him.”

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Stroud wasn't the only Buckeye to come to Fields' defense Friday in Indianapolis.

Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who referred to Fields as an older brother, thinks the detractors need to do their homework.

"I wouldn't think they were very smart," Smith-Njigba said of those who say Fields is a running back playing quarterback. "I would think they should do so more research, some more film watching, more something. Do something different.

"He's whatever you need him to be. He's a great passer. He has a great arm, great eyes, great vision, reads the defense very well. You know, critics. You know how it is."

While Stroud isn't looking to take up residence in Chicago and supplant his teammate, Smith-Njigba would relish the chance to catch passes from Fields again.

"It would mean a lot," Smith-Njigba said of playing with Fields in the NFL. "I would appreciate that a lot there in Chicago. Justin Fields, playing with an elite quarterback. I think it would just be good for both of us to be there and have that support on and off the field. It would mean a lot to me.

"Since he's been in Chicago we've always talked about [the Bears drafting me]," Smith-Njigba said. "I appreciate it coming from a guy like that."

Stroud plans to start building his NFL legacy in a place far away from Chicago while Fields crafts his own with the Bears, potentially with Smith-Njigba alongside him.

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