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Fields focused on 'playing free' in Week 3

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After reviewing the film from Tampa, Bears quarterback Justin Fields felt as though he wasn't "playing like myself" in last Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers.

Fields said there was a "robotic" feel to his play and told reporters at Halas Hall Wednesday he wants to be his instinctual self in Week 3's game in Kansas City.

"Just literally going out there and playing football," Fields said. "Going back to it's a game and that's it. That's when I play my best, when I'm just out there playing free and being myself."

Fields added he saw a few negative plays from Sunday that could have turned positive if he "was playing like my old self." The strip sack Fields took in the second quarter was one of those moments.

With plays like those, Fields is working to implement the fact that "everything doesn't have to be perfect" for a play or a drive to succeed.

"It's not going to work out perfectly every time," Fields said. "Yes, there's times where I could have stayed in the pocket, but in that play specifically, I was in the pocket for a long time. I've got to extend the play, get out of the pocket, and do something with it. Make something shake. That's kind of what I'm talking about though in getting back into my game and becoming more of a football player than such a thinker on the field."

While Fields broke out last season by showcasing his rushing talents, the quarterback has recorded just 62 yards on the ground through the first two games. In 2022, Fields totaled 1,143 rushing yards on 160 carries – the second most by a quarterback in NFL history – and 11 touchdowns.

At the conclusion of last season and into the offseason, Fields and the Bears coaching staff all said they wanted the Ohio State product to improve in the passing game. While Fields still knows the value of being a threat in the pocket, he also wants to continue utilizing his natural strengths.

"I think you just have to have a healthy mix of it," Fields said. "Of course, there's going to be times when you are going to have to stay in the pocket and, like I said, you're going to have to extend plays, make plays, get outside the pocket, be a threat with your legs and still be able to throw the ball too. So just keeping that same kind of fluidity throughout the game and just being smart about everything."

Coach Matt Eberflus also spoke with reporters Wednesday and discussed Fields' mindset following the Buccaneers game.

"I think that a player needs to feel free," Eberflus said. "He needs to have the flow of the game, he needs to use his instincts. That's what you want from players. You have any players like that, if it's a receiver, linebacker, defensive line, those guys, you've gotta play free. The guys were brought here to play that way. We want to see them. We want to see those in-the-game situations."

Fields said he had a "good conversation" with the coaching staff Monday and added Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy are "always receptive" to what players have to say.

Eberflus echoed Fields' statement and said the pair meet every Monday to "go through some plays, good plays, plays that we need to talk about and then we just sit and have a conversation."

"He respects the partnership between coaching and player and we want his feedback," Eberflus said. "He wants our feedback and that's how you get to honest conversations and, you know, the meeting we had this week was good. He expressed what he would like. I expressed what he was doing well, what he needs to work on and that's always going to be the case, And it was a good conversation."

Eberflus emphasized the importance of Fields being able to speak openly and honestly with the coaching staff as it allows the group to "work through this together."

In helping Fields play more freely, Eberflus said it's important for him and his staff to highlight the natural quarterback progressions while also pointing out where instincts can kick in.

"It's all about how you coach them off the tape," Eberflus said, "and say, 'Hey, this is where it is. You're going through progressions. You don't like what you see, OK. Here's an opportunity to do this. Or here's an opportunity to deliver the ball down the field.' You just coach it that way and that's very important how you talk to him. So you coach that freedom into him."

Even in the Bears' loss last Sunday, Fields recognized where the offense made strides while in Tampa. Improvements in the offensive rhythm showed up in the first drive of the game when Fields connected with receiver Justin Fields for gains of 33 and 31 yards, setting up a Fields 1-yard touchdown run.

Fields also saw those positives in the Bears' 8-play, 90-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter capped with a 20-yard touchdown reception by receiver Chase Claypool. The cohesiveness and execution the offense displayed on that possession is what Fields knows the unit is capable of moving forward.

"We didn't let anything affect us," Fields said. "I think we might've had a penalty on that drive, but we got through it and we just played ball. We did what we were supposed to do no matter the down and distance. We went out there and executed on each drive. That's what we've got to get back to doing so that's what we're gonna do."

During the Bears' open locker room session Wednesday afternoon, Fields addressed the media again to clarify his earlier comments.

"I'm not blaming anything on the coaches," Fields said. "I'm never gonna blame anything on the coaches, never gonna blame anything on my teammates. Whatever happens in the game, I will take all of the blame. I don't care if it's a dropped pass, put it on me. Never, when you hear anything come out of my mouth, would I blame it on somebody else in this organization, my teammates. Never would you hear that. I just want to clear that up. Just know that I need to play better. Point blank."

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