Bears quarterback Justin Fields progressively gained the attention of national media and football fans around the country last season, emerging as a dual-threat talent in Chicago.
Whether it was eluding defenders with his legs and breaking free for long runs or displaying his deep ball with 50+-yard passes, Fields proved he's a difference-maker.
Fields' peers around the league took notice of the QB's emergence in 2022, and now it's becoming a common reason free agents have been signing with the Bears this offseason.
Last Thursday, defensive end DeMarcus Walker was asked in his introductory press conference whether Fields influenced his decision to come to Chicago.
Walker didn't hesitate in replying: "Excuse my French. Abso-(bleeping)-lutely."
While Walker's comment caused an eruption of laughter in the room, he was serious in his sentiment.
"Having a young, talented quarterback who I watched in college and got to know him and he was kinda telling me about myself in the weight room earlier," Walker said. "I'm like, 'OK, That shows his professionalism.' And then to where I have been watching a lot of Bears games this past week, trying to understand not just the defense, but the whole team dynamics, special teams, like how guys are performing in the heat of the moment and everything.
"I mean, Justin Fields is definitely someone that I can't wait to go to battle with."
Playing on opposite sides of the ball, Fields and Walker will never actually share the field together. As a defensive end, though, Walker understands the impact a star quarterback has on an entire team and the trajectory of a franchise.
Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds also cited Fields as a reason he chose Chicago.
Edmunds, a former first-round pick, spent his first five NFL seasons with the Bills and faced the Bears in Week 16 last year. Edmunds recalls Buffalo's defense putting an emphasis on stopping Fields' dual-threat ability.
"If you pull up his stats it speaks for itself," Edmunds said. "Obviously it presents challenges in different ways, whether he's running the ball or throwing the football. I know obviously when we was preparing for him we were like, 'we've got to make sure we bring it this week,' but definitely a guy that I'm excited to play with.
"Obviously, that goes into the decision of making that decision to come here."
Get an exclusive look inside the Bears' practice facility as new Bears DJ Moore, Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, DeMarcus Walker, Nate Davis, Travis Homer and P.J. Walker tour the building, meet their new teammates and more during their first days in Chicago.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards – formerly a Philadelphia Eagle - is another new Bears defensive addition that competed against Fields in 2022.
While the Bears fell to the Eagles in their Week 15 matchup, Fields broke the Bears' single-season rushing record by a quarterback during that game, rushing for 95 yards on 15 attempts, including breaking free for an impressive 39-yard gain in the second quarter.
"I said this kind of after the game, I think one of the bigger things was I knew he was fast, for sure, just from what he can do," Edwards said. "I knew he had a strong arm. But I didn't realize he's a big dude, man. That's no small quarterback back there. So, I think just how strong he is and the way he can maneuver and make the right decisions is big time, for sure."
On the offensive side, tight end Robert Tonyan and guard Nate Davis expressed their interest in playing alongside Fields.
Davis, who started 54 games in four seasons for the Titans, told reporters last Thursday that he took the quarterback position into consideration when searching for a new home this offseason and that Fields "checks all those boxes."
"The man is young, he's smart, he's talented," Davis said. "Obviously, he's a leader. That's somebody you'd want to block for, for sure."
Tonyan got a closer look at Fields the last two years as the tight end spent five seasons in Green Bay before signing with the Bears late last week. In his opening press conference, Tonyan said he's "a big fan of the quarterback" in Chicago.
"I think he's a mentally strong, young player," Tonyan said. "That's hard to do when you come in the league when you have a lot of, whether it's positive or negative things being said about you in the media, just keeping your cool and playing your game. He progressed so well throughout the year last year. We got to see that being division opponents. He's staying in there, taking hits, getting up, popping up, kept coming back for more.
"That's what you kind of want in a quarterback and a leader, someone who doesn't quit or back down, playing through injuries or whatever it may be. I'm just super excited to be a part of that."