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Fields' quicker decision-making evident at practice

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Last month Justin Fields told ChicagoBears.com that his primary focus this offseason has been getting the ball out of his hands quicker.

According to coach Matt Eberflus, the third-year quarterback has made strides in that aspect of his game during OTA practices.

"I think it is detectable when you're out there," Eberflus said. "You can see him going through his reads quicker, reading the coverages on the snap and processing and where to go with the football. And he's been working with his footwork and his release. He's been doing a great job with all those things, and we're excited with where he is right now."

Fields has made those improvements this offseason due in part to the familiarity that comes with working in the same offense for a second straight year under coordinator Luke Getsy. It's the first time in Fields' three NFL seasons that he isn't learning a new system.

"I think some of it is expected just from the experience of last year," Eberflus said. "But I would say this: no one has worked harder than him in this offseason. Starting in February, he's been working on his own, studying different quarterbacks and really understanding what he needed to improve on, getting with coaches from [Andrew] Janocko, Luke and myself. He's worked his tail off from that point."

Veteran offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, who has been moved from left guard back to center, also sees a difference in Fields.

"I just think he's going to be more comfortable from certain reads, certain passes that he's seen before, certain coverages," Whitehair said. "It all ties together. He's doing really well right now. He's very commanding in the huddle. His leadership has just taken a next step. I'm really excited to see him this year."

Facing Fields every day in practice, Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams also has witnessed progress from the former Ohio State star.

"I see good decision-making," Williams said. "That's what you want in your quarterback. I see improved accuracy. That's what you want in your quarterback. And how fast he's processing, that's also what you want in your quarterback.

"From Day 1 last year to right now, from my standpoint—and I'm not a quarterback guru whatsoever—I see how he has grown from last year to this year, and practice by practice by practice he's growing. You have to be encouraged when you see those things."

Fields blossomed into a dynamic playmaker last season, rushing for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns on 160 carries and throwing for 2,242 yards and 17 TDs. His 1,143 rushing yards were the second most by a quarterback in NFL history behind only the Ravens' Lamar Jackson's 1,206 yards in 2019.

A year later, Fields figures to benefit from several key offseason additions. The Bears traded for No. 1 receiver DJ Moore; signed guard Nate Davis, running back D'Onta Foreman and tight end Robert Tonyan in free agency; and drafted tackle Darnell Wright, running back Roschon Johnson and receiver Tyler Scott.

"We added a bunch of different playmakers and we all kind of want to do the same thing he does so he doesn't have to do it all," said running back Khalil Herbert. "Just having that element that you've got this explosive quarterback that can make a play any time he has the ball in his hands, you want to be able to be there to do the same thing and help him out. I feel like we've got the guys for it and I'm excited."

Fields has played a key role in helping his new teammates learn the offense.

"I feel like it started from before we even got on the field," Herbert said, "just in meetings, going through things, explaining everything in detail to everybody, breaking down the little things, whenever you've got questions, being able to answer those things.

"Just being in Year 2 he seems so much more comfortable and knows the whole offense, so really being able to break down, 'why I want you at this depth at this time,' you know, 'I'm going to be on this track for this handoff' and different things like that that he's able to explain to guys and be very detailed about now."

Herbert sees Fields as a natural leader, not only based on what he says but what he does.

"I always think about the play against Detroit at the goal line and he ran [a defender] over," Herbert said. "Every time he gets up, he does pushups after he gets hit. You just love playing with a guy like that who's going to put his all out there and put his body on the line to get the job done and do whatever it takes.

"Just seeing that, guys gravitate toward that, guys want to be around that guy, want to help him out, do what they've got to do to help him succeed. I feel like that's what everybody's trying to do."

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