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Fields embracing different mindset as Bears' starter

Justin Fields

Justin Fields is learning a new offense for the second time in as many NFL seasons, but there's a major difference between this offseason and his first with the Bears.

Expected to be a backup in 2021, the promising young quarterback prepared for his rookie campaign by taking second-team reps behind veteran Andy Dalton. A year later, Fields is the Bears' undisputed starter.

"Last year, my rookie year, I didn't know if I was going to start or not, didn't know if I was going to play," Fields said Tuesday. "My mindset right now is completely different than last year, and I'm just excited to get started."

Fields has spent the last few months learning the Bears' new offense. Since the start of the offseason program April 4, he's worked closely with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko in the classroom. This week's voluntary minicamp—which consists of practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday—is Fields' first opportunity to transfer what he's learned onto the field.

"We're installing a whole new offense, so it's really about just getting the guys out there on the field and running through the base plays and kind of just getting a feel of all the new players and stuff like that," Fields said. "We've just been building relationships, installing this offense, and I was just really excited to get out here on the field today."

Coach Matt Eberflus was pleased with what he saw from Fields Tuesday.

"He's just soaking it in and taking command of the offense," Eberflus said. "He's done a great job with that so far. I thought he did an excellent job today, he really did. He was in command of the offense, really every play that I saw. When you're working with 11 guys, there was a mistake here and there by this person or that person. But, man, he had really good command today."

Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles have repeatedly vowed to put Fields and his teammates in the best positions to succeed by accentuating their strengths.

"I hope that they will just tailor the plays to my skill set," Fields said, "which we're going to do, so just finding out what I do best, what we do best as an offense, what we do best as a team, and run that offense."

The Bears have already made one switch involving the quarterback's fundamentals.

"One big thing was changing my drop," Fields said. "Last year, I had my right foot forward in the gun. [This offseason] I've been working a lot having my left foot forward in the gun. It's just what they do in their offense. It times it better with the routes and stuff like that, so that's why we do it."

Eberflus has said multiple times that he anticipates Fields will make a big leap in his second NFL season. As a rookie, the former Ohio State standout appeared in 12 games with 10 starts, throwing for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 73.2 passer rating. He also rushed for 420 yards and two TDs on 72 carries.

Fields showed flashes of his dynamic dual-threat ability, most notably on a spectacular 22-yard touchdown scramble against the 49ers and by engineering a 75-yard TD drive to give the Bears a late lead over the Steelers. But he also committed miscues that need to be corrected, such as taking too many sacks and failing to protect the ball at times.

"[There were] a lot of ups and downs, but I definitely learned a lot," Fields said. "[I'm] thankful for all the experiences we had to go through. The stuff last year is just going to make me better, so of course I'm excited for Year 2.

"I have a lot more knowledge now. Going through a whole season, you learn a lot of things and you start incorporating things in your routine to make you a better football player."