LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields recalled his younger years as an Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick fan, when he would go to games with his father.
There’s a possibility Fields could join Vick and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson as the third quarterback ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a season when the Bears host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. He needs 95 yards to get to 1,000 and has had more than 95 twice this season.
“That would be crazy with Michael Vick, me growing up in Atlanta,” Fields said. “I remember I was 8, 9 years old. I had his cleats. So that would just be crazy, kind of just full circle. I mean, it would be awesome.
“And Lamar, everybody knows he’s a great quarterback, a dynamic playmaker. Having my name with those two guys would be great for sure.”
Fields, who returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with an illness, needs 64 yards to break the team quarterback rushing record of 968, set by Bobby Douglass in a 14-game season in 1972.
The Bears have talked about cutting back on planned running plays by Fields, possibly a good move considering all the quarterbacks suffering injuries lately in the NFL.
They may have picked the wrong week to downplay Fields' running with the Eagles and their league-high 49 sacks coming to Chicago. Then again, he might be scrambling more than he normally would while facing the league’s second-ranked defense.
Fields’ scrambling on third downs is a big reason the Bears' offense has risen to sixth in the league in third-down conversion rate at 45.1%.
“I think I’ve said this before but I really wasn’t even this good of a rusher in college,” the former Ohio State standout said. “I didn’t run this much in college. This rushing thing just kind of picked up this year.”
Fields can’t help but pay attention to the records, even though they're not a primary concern.
“Oh yeah, for sure, I have friends that bring me up, ‘Hey bro you’re this close to the record,’ this and that,” Fields said. “So they’re always telling me that. But I’m always hearing them after the games and stuff like that.
“Again, it doesn’t matter how many rushing yards I have, it doesn’t have how many passing yards I have. As long as we get the win that’s really all I care about.”
Fields ran a season-low six times on Dec. 4 against the Packers before the Bears had a bye. He relied more on his arm for a season-high 254 passing yards.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy thought there was more circumstance involved than planning for the reduction in Fields’ rushing attempts. Better pass protection allowed the Bears to throw more.
“So any time you have a cleaner pocket, you have an opportunity to perform the task a little bit easier,” Fields said. “The receivers did a nice job being where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be.
“It was just a little bit better execution maybe than we’ve had, but it usually starts up front.”
It’s also sign of the progress Fields and Getsy have made in their first year together.
While Getsy likes the improvement Fields has shown as a passer, he can’t discount the runs.
“Yes, he’s a phenomenal athlete, the things we’ve seen him do on the field have been awesome,” Getsy said. “They’ve been really cool to watch and be a part of.
“But I think for me, the bigger things is how do we grow him to be the leader that he wants to become and the player that he wants to become.”
NOTES: RB David Montgomery (illness) missed Thursday’s practice. ... T Larry Borom (knee) practiced for the first time since missing the Packers game.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL