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Bears Bulletin

Bears plan to start Justin Fields vs. Lions

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Coach Matt Eberflus announced Wednesday that quarterback Justin Fields is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday when the Bears visit the Lions.

"Our plan is to start him on Sunday," Eberflus said. "He continues to progress this week. Returning to practice today is going to be a big part of the evaluation. But again, he's progressing well, and our plan is to start him this week."

Fields has missed the last four games with a dislocated right thumb he sustained exactly a month ago, Oct. 15, in a 19-13 loss to the Vikings at Soldier Field.

Fields returned to practice Nov. 3 on a limited basis, but Wednesday marked the first time since he was injured that he worked out without restrictions.

Fields started the first six games this season, completing 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,201 yards with 11 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 91.6 passer rating. He also rushed for 237 yards and one TD on 47 carries.

Before injuring his thumb versus Minnesota, Fields threw for four TDs in each of his previous two starts, passing for 335 yards in a 31-28 loss to the Broncos and 282 yards in a 40-20 win over the Commanders. His 120.0 passer rating in Weeks 4-6 was the best in the NFL during that span.

Playing the last four-and-a-half games in place of Fields, undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 859 yards with three touchdowns, six interceptions and a 71.4 passer rating. The Shepherd University product also has rushed for 109 yards and two TDs on 23 carries.

Fields' return should provide a boost to the Bears' offense.

"You have some different options there," Eberflus said, "different movement passes that you might run that you wouldn't run with a different quarterback in there. [It] certainly opens up your package a bit."

Eberflus praised Fields for staying engaged with the offense and assisting the inexperienced Bagent while being unable to play.

"It's been great," Eberflus said. "In terms of him being a professional, him helping out Tyson … I think that was very beneficial for Tyson to have that support, because you can feel support, you can feel him being genuine about that support and really helpful and he was great that way.

"He's always been a great teammate, always been one of the hardest workers. He was engaged in all those game plans to be helpful and to be supportive."

Line changes

In other injury news, Eberflus revealed that Nate Davis is set to start at right guard against the Lions. Davis, who has missed the last four games with an ankle injury he suffered versus the Vikings, was a full participant in practice.

With Davis back, Teven Jenkins will switch from right guard to left guard and Lucas Patrick will remain at center.

"That's going to be the move that we make there," Eberflus said. "We feel that's our best five out there as we get healthy with our football team, so excited about that."

After sitting out the first four games this year with a calf injury, Jenkins was inserted at left guard in a win over the Commanders after Patrick exited with an injury and was replaced by Cody Whitehair, who moved from left guard to center.

Jenkins then started at left guard the next week versus the Vikings but then moved to right guard when Davis was injured and started the last four games there.

Eberflus explained why Jenkins will start at left guard and Davis will play right guard.

"That's what Nate has played, and it gives us the flexibility, because Tev has played both sides," Eberflus said. "Tev has looked good on both sides. That's just the best operation that we feel for each position experience."

With the new offensive line configuration, Whitehair will serve as a backup for the first time in his NFL career. He has started all 117 games he's played since being selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Kansas State.

"Cody has been a true pro," Eberflus said. "Obviously a captain here for many years. Had a great long career and he's still going to continue to help us as we go. That's our starting lineup for this week and things can [change quickly] and he's back into the mix at center, guard, wherever it might be. We're fortunate that we have the flexibility to do that, to move Teven to both sides, to have Cody play guard or center. We're fortunate that way and he brings that flexibility to our team."

More health updates

Fullback Khari Blasingame returned to practice Wednesday without restrictions after being cleared from concussion protocol. Blasingame was injured against the Saints and sat out last Thursday night's win over the Panthers.

"Good to get him back," Eberflus said. "Get our two-back sets out there, so we're excited about that going forward."

Cornerback Terell Smith also returned to practice in full Wednesday after missing the last five games due to mononucleosis.

"He'll be rotating in there with our DBs, our different packages that we have," Eberflus said, "so we're really excited to get him back there. He feels good and looks good too."

Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not practice due to a knee injury he sustained Oct. 29 against the Chargers that has sidelined him for the last two games. But the Bears hope he will be able to play in Detroit.

"He's optimistic," Eberflus said. "He did walk-through today, so we'll see where he is. He ran with the trainers this morning and we'll see where it goes. But he felt good about it."

All hands on deck

With Fields and other players returning from injuries this week, reinforcements are arriving as the Bears begin a difficult four-game stretch against opponents with a combined record of 26-11. After road contests in Detroit (7-2) and Minnesota (6-4), they'll host the Lions and then visit Cleveland (6-3).

"It's good to be healthy and it's good to have our guys back at full strength," Eberflus said. "We're excited about that. Now it's just bringing them together for this particular game plan because we're playing some good teams here in the next three or four weeks and we're going to need that. It's all hands on deck."

The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall to continue their preparation for Sunday's divisional battle with the Lions in Detroit.

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