Bears quarterback Justin Fields returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time since dislocating his right thumb Oct. 15 against the Vikings but is doubtful for Sunday's game in New Orleans.
"Good to see him back at practice," said coach Matt Eberflus. "He's progressing day-to-day now, so it's good to see him take that next step in that progression. He was dialed in on the game plan the whole week as he's been the last couple weeks."
Fields is unlikely to play Sunday in New Orleans.
"It's doubtful right now," Eberflus said. "We're just letting it progress as it goes and that's where we put it right now. It's good to see him throw out there today, for sure."
Asked what he needs to see for Fields to play Sunday, Eberflus said: "Just more progression. More working through it. We've got a mock game [Saturday] and we'll go from there. He's healing up nicely, so that's good."
Fields told reporters that he threw for the first time since the injury Friday and that he needed to wear a glove on his right hand to do so.
"I just use a glove because I don't have to grip the ball as hard with the glove," he said, "so it just makes it easier to throw."
Fields revealed that his grip strength is "not fully back" and he's still experiencing "a little bit of pain." Asked if he could play in New Orleans if he had to, the Ohio State product said: "We'll see. I've been mentally preparing like … I'm going to play, but we'll see just how it feels Sunday."
Fields said that he'll know he's ready to play when he's able to "make all the throws and be able to withstand hits and stuff like that during the game."
With Fields doubtful, undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent is expected to make his third NFL start Sunday. The previous two weeks, the Shepherd University product completed 72.4% of his passes (21 of 29) for 162 yards and one touchdown in a 30-13 win over the Raiders and threw for 232 yards in a loss to the Chargers.
"Tyson's been great," Fields said. "Like I said – what, training camp? – from the day he stepped in, he's come in and worked hard. The first game, against the Raiders, he played great. He played his butt off. He just wants to learn each and every day and he knows he can come to me for any questions and I'll help him out. But he's been great. He's been leading the guys. He's ready to go."
The Bears have a quick turnaround looming, with a Thursday night home game against the Panthers just four days after Sunday's contest in New Orleans. But there's a chance that Fields could return to face Carolina.
"That's really depending on Justin," Eberflus said, "where his pain tolerance is when he throws and then also the functionality of it, where it goes from there. It's day-to-day, and then where the trainers say he is and we work through it and look at it as a coaching staff and say, 'Hey, this is where he is. He's accurate. Looks good, everything looks on point,' and go from there."
In other injury news, right guard Nate Davis will miss his third straight game Sunday with an ankle injury he sustained Oct. 15 against the Vikings.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, left tackle Braxton Jones was activated off injured reserve Saturday after practicing without restrictions Friday and being limited Wednesday and Thursday. The second-year pro has been sidelined since hurting his neck in a Week 2 loss to the Buccaneers.
The defense will be shorthanded Sunday, with middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (knee) and safety Jaquan Brisker (concussion) both ruled out of the game. Reserve rookie cornerback Terell Smith (illness) also won't play.
Edmunds is expected to be replaced by second-year pro Jack Sanborn, who has appeared in all eight games with five starts this season, registering 38 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and one interception that he returned 42 yards.
Sanborn emerged as a key contributor last season as a rookie. An undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, he excelled after becoming a starter following the midseason trade of Roquan Smith to the Ravens. Before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in a Week 15 loss to the Eagles, Sanborn made six consecutive starts and recorded 59 tackles, 5.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and one fumble recovery.
"Sanborn's our guy that's played a lot in that position," Eberflus said. "He's looked good in that position in the past. He's got a lot of experience in there and he played well for us last year. So we expect to see him playing there."
Sanborn has been playing mostly the strong side linebacker position this season, but he isn't concerned about moving into the middle spot.
"I'm not really worried," Sanborn said. "I've done it before. Did it last year and I'd been doing it through all of camp, so I feel very comfortable there, and I'm excited to go in there and play with those guys."
There is some good news on the injury front: Safety Eddie Jackson is slated to return Sunday after recovering from a foot injury. The seventh-year pro missed the Raiders game and was active but did not play last Sunday versus the Chargers.
"He will start," Eberflus said. "We're excited where he is, and he had a good week of practice … He was working through [the injury], and no one wanted to play more than him. So he worked through it and he's in a good spot now."