The Chicago Bears had already declared Justin Fields inactive with a left shoulder injury when more uncertainty from the quarterback emerged Sunday morning.
Trevor Siemian, who had been preparing all week to start if Fields couldn’t play against the New York Jets, was also injured.
During initial warmups on the court at MetLife Stadium about 90 minutes before the game, Siemian realized “something wasn’t right,” that an oblique injury “came out on me.” The Bears announced through their media relations staff about 50 minutes before kickoff that Nathan Peterman would start at third.
Siemian returned to the locker room, took some medication and tried to throw again during the team’s warm-up. Hang in there, a Bears representative told reporters about 10 minutes before kickoff, Siemian could start after all.
The official word didn’t come until Siemian ran down the field for the first offensive snap with 10 minutes, 12 seconds to play in the first quarter. Apparently the Fox Sports broadcasters didn’t know until then. Even Bears tight end Cole Kmet claimed he didn’t know before that point.
“It was like, ‘Here we go. Let’s go,’” Kmet said after the Jets’ 31-10 win.
A week of questions about the Bears quarterback finally had an answer. After returning to the field for the team’s warmup, Siemian said he decided he had to try to play through the injury. He said it bothered him “a little bit” in the rain-soaked outing, when he completed 14 of 25 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Bears’ fifth straight loss.
“Honestly, I’m more embarrassed to get hurt,” Siemian said. “There are guys out there playing — what are we in, week 12, 13? — going through hell. And then I got a contactless thing. So, yeah, it’s not ideal, but everybody goes through something at this time of year.”
The quarterback questions could linger this week as the Bears try to move on from the ugly loss against a tough Jets defense heading into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
Fields has been limited in practice all week with what he said is a separated left shoulder with a partially torn ligament. He took throwing reps with Siemian and Peterman before the game. But after Fields met with general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and the medical staff, the Bears ruled he wasn’t ready to play, an outcome that was expected later in the week.
Eberflus said Fields has felt better every day and “if he continues to progress, then he has an opportunity” to start against the Packers. The Bears have an open date after that game, so they could also weigh the benefits of giving Fields two more weeks to heal.
“The medical staff has not cleared him to play today,” Eberflus said. “Justin didn’t feel like he could protect himself and perform the way he wanted to. It’s about mobility and strength in the left arm. We’ll take it day by day.”
Siemian made his first start for the Bears and his first overall in more than a year. The eighth-year NFL veteran from Northwestern has started four straight losses for the New Orleans Saints in November 2021.
He said he knew there was a good chance he would play Sunday, but he didn’t get official word that Fields wouldn’t start until that morning.
“You’re ready to play every week. You’re one play away,” he said. “Maybe towards the end of the week, I was like, ‘Oh shoot, I really need to be ready to go.’ But it wasn’t much different than any other week.”
His outing started off pretty well, with the Bears scoring on their first two drives.
Cairo Santos kicked a 22-yard field goal early in the game. Siemian hit Chase Claypool with passes of 20 and 31 yards on the second drive, then connected with Byron Pringle for a 4-yard touchdown pass and a 10–7 lead. Pringle caught the pass over Jets cornerback DJ Reed.
“He ran in the back of the end zone, he made a great play,” Siemian said. “The guy is tough as nails. He is athletic with a long catch range. He made a great play on that.”
But the Bears offense stalled, going three-and-out on the next three possessions and gaining a first down on the next two possessions after that as the Jets jumped out to a 31-10 lead. Siemian and a running game fueled by David Montgomery and Darrynton Evans helped the Bears drive into Jets territory twice in the fourth quarter, despite the Bears playing without top receiver Darnell Mooney.
On the first drive, Siemian threw incomplete to Dante Pettis on third-and-5 from the 27-yard line on third down and nearly threw an interception on a pass to Claypool on fourth-and-5. The Bears’ last drive ended with CJ Mosley’s interception at the 3.
“They were more physical than us in the second half,” Kmet said. “I don’t think we executed well in the second half. I had a lot of mental errors, guys just weren’t doing things right.
“There, at the end, that pick, I put that on myself. I can’t go on the field like that. Things like that, we just have to correct ourselves. Despite the elements and what’s going on, we have to be able to execute.”
Mosley and Jets coach Robert Saleh said they prepared all week for Fields to play. Saleh said that once Fields was ruled out, nothing would have changed from their perspective between Siemian or Peterman because they wouldn’t have had to deal with the threat of Fields running.
“We definitely expected Fields to play, just knowing that he’s a franchise quarterback, he’s a young quarterback and he wants to be out there with his team,” Mosley said. “It did not happen. We heard about the (Siemian) injury out there in warmups, so at that point, we were just ready to execute our game plan. We prepared for Fields, but we were prepared for anyone who stepped on the pitch.”
Eberflus’ general policy is to keep information about injuries quiet so as not to give a competitive advantage to the opposing team. So it remains to be seen if the Bears’ mystery will continue this week.