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Fields reflects on growth, optimistic about future

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Bears quarterback Justin Fields made major strides in his second NFL season, emerging as a dangerous dual threat. But he knows that there's still room for improvement.

“I feel like I grew over the year, got better … But I also understand that I need to get better at a lot of stuff.” Bears QB Justin Fields

The Ohio State product started 15 games, rushing for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns on 160 carries and throwing for 2,242 yards with 17 TDs, 11 interceptions and an 85.2 passer rating. His 1,143 yards rushing are the second most by an NFL quarterback behind only the Ravens' Lamar Jackson's 1,206 yards in 2019.

Fields also set a single game record for rushing yards by an NFL quarterback with 178 Nov. 6 against the Dolphins. In addition, he became the first quarterback with three TD runs of at least 50 yards, the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era with a rushing TD in six straight games and the first quarterback to rush for at least 70 yards in five consecutive contests since at least 1950.

"I feel like I grew over the year, got better," Fields said Monday at Halas Hall, one day after the Bears concluded a 3-14 season with a 29-13 loss to the Vikings. "My main goal was just to get better each and every day and improve.

"The stuff that I was able to accomplish this year, [I] couldn't have done it without my teammates, coaches, and stuff like that. But I also understand that I need to get better at a lot of stuff. Just going to go back to work to training and get better." 

Learning a new offense under first-year coordinator Luke Getsy, the light went on for Fields about halfway through the season. After passing for five touchdowns in his first seven starts, he threw for 12 TDs in his final seven games. In addition, Fields rushed for an average of 38.8 yards with one TD in his first five starts and 94.9 yards and seven TDs in his last 10 games. 

"I felt like just my overall understanding of the offense kind of hit midseason," Fields said. "Just growth within a lot of stuff."

Fields' emergence fueled the Bears, who scored 33, 29, 32 and 30 points in a four-game stretch during Weeks 7-10 against the Patriots, Cowboys, Dolphins and Lions, respectively. It's a span that instilled confidence in the 2021 first-round pick that the offense was on the right track. 

"Just the fact that we were putting up 30-plus points a game for 4-5 weeks, we know what we can do as an offense and what we can accomplish," Fields said. "The fact that this was everybody's first year in the offense and we were doing that, [in] Luke's first year as an OC, that just gives us a lot of hope, a lot of optimism for the future, for sure."

Fields told reporters that he and Getsy have "a great relationship."

"Luke's a down-to-earth guy; probably one of the realest coaches I've been around," Fields said. "He'll tell you straight up. Just the kind of person he is, he's genuine, he's smart, too, so I just love being around him. You can kind of just see his soul and see how pure it is and how pure his heart is. He's a great guy and I really look up to him, even as a person, as a dad, how he is with his wife and kids. It's amazing."

Fields is eager to continue working with Getsy in 2023.

"We have full trust in each and know that we can be honest with each other, straight up," Fields said. "That's what I love about him, that's what I love about [quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko]. They're real. I'll tell them what it is, they're not going to judge you. You can be open and honest with them."

Unlike last year when Fields entered his rookie season second on the Bears' depth chart, he feels that the team is now his.

"I feel like it's already mine," Fields said. "The guys in here, they know how hard I work. They know what I want to accomplish and just my mindset overall. Really just trying to get guys on the same page, that mindset, that culture to where no matter what we go through nothing can faze us. And it's really just having that swagger, having that confidence going into every game like, 'They have to play us. They have to beat us.' As long as we do that and have that mindset going into every game, we'll be fine."

As the Bears enter the offseason with considerable salary cap space and the first pick in the draft for the first time since 1947, Fields is excited about the opportunities the team has to improve. But he's not going to tell general manager Ryan Poles how to do his job.

"I know Ryan has a great understanding of what needs to be done around here, what holes we might need to fill and stuff like that," Fields said. "That's not my job to control any of that. Whatever he needs me to do in terms of recruiting, I'm sure we're going to have that conversation here in a bit.

"Whatever he's going to do, I fully trust him. His goal is to make the best team he can for us. I know he's going to do a great job of that. We're going to get better and work in the offseason."

Over the coming weeks and months, Poles will be busy preparing for free agency, which begins March 15, and the NFL Draft April 27-29.

"There's a lot of optimism," Fields said. "[But] my job is strictly [to] get better, work on my skills at quarterback and ultimately get my teammates better. Of course, I'm going to pay attention to who we get and stuff like that, but to be honest I'm just focused on me right now and everybody else that's on the team and just get better with those guys, grow with them."