Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since sustaining broken ribs Nov. 21 against the Ravens.
Fields remains the Bears' No. 1 quarterback, but because he was limited Wednesday, veteran Andy Dalton took first-team reps in practice. Dalton started in place of Fields last Thursday in Detroit, completing 24 of 39 passes for 317 yards with one touchdown, one interception and an 85.1 passer rating in a 16-14 win over the Lions.
When Fields is able to return, coach Matt Nagy hopes the first-round pick will build on his performances in the two games that preceded the Ravens contest. Fields became the first quarterback in Bears history with at least 175 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a contest against the 49ers and followed with an impressive performance versus the Steelers, passing for a career-high 291 yards and engineering a late go-ahead touchdown drive.
"For us, right now, we've got to make sure that, medically, he's in a place where he's safe," Nagy said. "When he is and as we work through that, it's important for him to continue to grow off of that momentum that he had those last couple games … He had some moments in there where you could feel him growing."
Fields is eager to return but won't be rushed back into action.
"This is a part of life of playing quarterback in this league," Nagy said. "There's going to be injuries that happen. He's done a great job of staying mentally focused—even last week, for him on the sideline to kind of get a feel and see from that perspective some things, I think [was] good for him. We'll see how it goes this week and keep an eye on everything. I like where he's at."
In other injury news, Bears players who did not practice Wednesday were receivers Allen Robinson II (hamstring) and Marquise Goodwin (foot/ribs), tight end Cole Kmet (groin), running back Damien Williams (calf), defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle), defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs), inside linebacker Roquan Smith (hamstring) and outside linebacker Sam Kamara (concussion).
Nagy doesn't anticipate Smith being placed on injured reserve, but the talented fourth-year pro will be missed regardless of how long he's sidelined. The 2018 first-round pick leads the Bears and ranks fourth in the NFL with 112 tackles.
"Just being able to fill that role, I feel like, isn't going to be easy in terms of just his leadership, the energy that he brings to the defense," said cornerback Jaylon Johnson. "His ability to make plays that impact the game, I feel like it's going to be hard to replace. But the standard is the standard, so whoever fills that spot is going to come in and they'll have that same impact, hopefully. We've just got to keep moving and keep filling guys in and next guy up."