LAKE FOREST — As the Bears turned their attention to the Los Angeles Rams in practice this week, that meant moving Justin Fields to the scout team.
“The first day, he was all pouty, he didn't want to do it,” Nagy said.
"When I say pouty, I'm being tongue-in-cheek. He was fine. It was just like, hey listen, this is what you gotta do, work on your feet, step up and step out,” Nagy said. “Now he's awesome. He gets it. He understands the why.”
The scout team — or “look team” — is the most obvious change in practice now that the team is in regular season mode. In training camp, the first-team offense practices against the first-team defense, with both sides playing their own schemes. But now that the Bears are preparing for the Rams, the first-team offense faces the scout-team defense, which plays as if it’s the Rams’ defense — and vice versa on the other side of the ball.
That means, for the time being, Justin Fields is Matthew Stafford, running Sean McVay’s offense.
But how does that keep him ready in case starting quarterback Andy Dalton gets hurt and Fields needs to run the Bears’ offense on game day?
"That's real,” Nagy said when asked that question Thursday. “So for Justin, you have to make sure mentally that you are completely prepared within the game plan, with whatever that is. So calling the plays, understanding now that we're rolling. So if something happens or if there's a (untied) shoelace or whatever, you gotta go in there like there's no setback and it's go time.”
Nagy called the mental part “easy,” saying Fields can do that through film and video work.
The bigger issue is the lack of physical reps. Fields can hone in on his technique and mechanics while running the scout team, but he can’t rep the Bears’ actual plays and game plan.
So where does he get those much needed physical reps?
“We gotta be able to go in-between periods and he's got to get those physical reps. And then post-practice, get the mental and the physical,” Nagy said.
That likely means running extra physical reps during special teams periods and other times the quarterbacks are off the side. And doing extra work before and after practice.
“We do some things with our younger guys anyway that we started last year where we're able to get some reps for them of our game plan,” Nagy said.
But it’s still a tricky situation. While the Bears want Fields to sit back and learn more about NFL coverages, blitzes and protection changes while Dalton lives it on game day, the rookie quarterback is also going to get fewer reps within the Bears’ offense in practice.
The good news is that Fields isn’t afraid to put in whatever extra work is needed. We’ve already heard the stories about him taking quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo back out to the practice field to run through the scripts well after practice ended.
But the challenge to continue developing Fields while Dalton plays is real. And Bears insist they have a, you guessed it... plan.
“Every week that goes by, every play and minute that goes by, he just keeps growing,” Nagy said. “(DeFilippo) has a great plan ready for him.”