During the Hall of Fame Game, the NFL trotted out countless legends of the game, showcasing their gold jackets, their Super Bowl rings, and even their custom sneakers. It was a parade of excellence.
As Drew Pearson, Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys wide receiver said during the broadcast, “there’s a difference between being a pro, and being a professional.”
Or was it “there’s a difference between being a professional, and being a pro.”
Anyways, it’s confusing.
Apparently, one of these means you’ve made it to the NFL, while the other signifies the manner in which you carry yourself and conduct your business. Let’s assign the latter definition to “professional.”
Justin Fields, rookie quarterback for the Chicago Bears, is proving to be a professional, and it’s winning over everyone that comes close to him.
Fields is lighting up training camp, both on the field and in the meeting room
The long-maligned Chicagoland faithful have never had an elite franchise quarterback. Ever. Sure, the Jim McMahon years were fun, but those teams won on the backs of the greatest defense in league history, and on the feet of Walter “Sweetness” Payton. McMahon was more an embodiment of attitude than a special quarterback.
Then, somehow, Justin Fields slid on draft day after reckless rumors of questionable work ethic and maturity made the rounds. The Bears pounced at the opportunity to trade up to 11th overall, selecting the quarterback they hope will end their shaky quarterback history.
He’s doing everything to show that they got it right.
“Not going to say how crazy good some of things I have been told about Justin Fields the professional have been thus far. Don’t want to hear the “it’s only training camp” brigade puff up their chest and scream at the top of their lungs. BUT…it has been THAT good. Just sayin,” ESPN’s Louis Riddick posted on Twitter.
Head coach Matt Nagy should be licking his chops.
Fields’ maturity and work ethic have him poised to take the starting job
If you aren’t familiar with Justin Fields as a prospect, just know that he was a really really good one.
He and Trevor Lawrence, the first overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, have been fighting for the top dog spot since high school, both of whom playing in the state of Georgia. According to 247Sports, Lawrence edged out Fields in recruiting grade, but both were five-star recruits. Fields did nothing but produce at Ohio State, and showed up in the biggest games.
In the 2020 Sugar Bowl, the semifinal to the National Championship game, Fields and Lawrence did battle on the same field.
Fields came out on top, 49-28, compliments of a 22/28, 385-yard, six-touchdown game that saw him add 42 rushing yards just for good measure.
To go with his impeccable resume, his determination, attention to detail, business-like demeanor, and his professionalism is what’s showing up in training camp.
“He wants to be great. He puts in the work… It’s been impressive to see him so young and so focused. It definitely reminds me of Russell Wilson,” Bears tight end Jimmy Graham said, according to Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times.
That’s high praise from a tight end that has played with Wilson and Drew Brees.
It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s “when”
When the Bears declined the fifth-year option of Mitchell Trubisky last year, they made it clear that they were ready to move in a different direction. It’s weird to say that the Bears have done everything right this offseason, but they very clearly have.
First, they brought in veteran quarterback Andy Dalton on a one-year $10 million contract, providing them with a reliable, if unspectacular, option. Dalton stepped in as the backup to Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott when he went down with a gruesome ankle injury last year, and was at least serviceable, completing 64.9% of his passes for 2,170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in 11 appearances.
After drafting Fields, Nagy now has a mentor/mentee situation, with Dalton acting as a bridge between their labored past and what appears to be a beautiful future. How long he can leave the supercar in the garage before taking it out for a spin will be a true test of patience.