It was fitting that Justin Fields helped lead his squad to victory in a team-building event the Bears held Thursday at Wrigley Field.
The second-year quarterback, who belted two pitches into the bleachers in a Home Run Derby competition, has been impressing coaches and teammates with the leadership he's demonstrated during offseason practices.
"His leadership has taken a step," said veteran guard Cody Whitehair. "And that just comes with him being more comfortable from Year 1 to Year 2, [having] a little bit more experience, seeing things a second time or third time or fourth time, and he's only going to continue to grow."
Teammates have said throughout the offseason that Fields has displayed a greater command of the huddle than he did as a rookie. After being selected by the Bears with the 11th pick in the 2021 draft, Fields took second-team reps last offseason behind veteran Andy Dalton. A year later, the former Ohio State star is the team's undisputed starter.
"When he comes in to enunciate the play or give us what we need to know to get out there and execute the play, it's just a lot more smooth," Whitehair said. "He says it with more confidence, and I think that's just him developing from Year 1 to Year 2. We like where Justin is at and we're really excited for the year."
Third-year tight end Cole Kmet also has noticed a difference in Fields.
"He's just been great in terms of being vocal to everybody and being demonstrative about what he wants from everybody," Kmet said. "It's been fun to be a part of and fun to watch and exciting to keep drawing on this going into training camp."
Even players on the other side of the ball have seen Fields take control of the offense.
"His leadership has taken a step. And that just comes with him being more comfortable from Year 1 to Year 2 …” -Bears OL Cody Whitehair on QB Justin Fields
"He has a commanding leadership on the field, a legit field general," said defensive tackle Justin Jones. "He gets guys wound up, gets guys going.
"I'm really excited about the season he's about to have. Once you've played your first year, you've seen the speed of the game, you've seen how guys are moving, how fast the window closes. You see how fast receivers get open. I'm excited. He's a lot more comfortable now."
The Bears anticipate that Fields will make a big leap in his second season. As a rookie, he 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.
One fundamental change the Bears have made with Fields this offseason is having him line up in the shotgun formation with his left foot forward instead of his right foot like last year. The switch should help him get rid of the ball faster.
Fields will continue to work on that key aspect of his game with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko next week when the Bears hold a three-day mandatory minicamp.
"Luke and Andrew are doing a great job with the footwork and the timing," said coach Matt Eberflus. "That, to me, jumps out. You can see it in the drill work. You can see them taking it from the drill work to the 11-on-11 reps. That's clearly getting better, so I'm excited about that."