How Bears make lineup decisions about ailing players originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After Justin Fields suffered a shoulder injury in the late stages of the Bears' 27-24 loss to the Falcons, the discussion moving forward wasn’t whether or not Fields could play against the Jets this Sunday. It was whether he should play.
Those discussions aren’t just happening around office watercoolers or on social media, they happen at Halas Hall, too. So what happens when Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles have differing opinions on whether or not Fields should play?
“There’s a big argument then,” Eberflus joked. “No, I would say really that we have disagreements like that sometimes, and we would just have to put our heads together and make a common-sense decision on that, which is a lot of things. When we make decisions on certain things like we did with Teven last week — he’s got to make the thing as for the best for the player and where the player feels he is performance-wise.”
Before any discussion about whether a guy is in or out on Sunday, the team’s medical staff must clear them. If the medical staff says a player isn’t healthy enough to play, that’s the end of the discussion. If a player is medically cleared, then that’s when the larger discussion begins.
That’s where the Bears are now. Fields has been medically cleared to play, now they have to see how he feels.
Players have input into their availability based on how they’re feeling. If a player says he feels good enough to play, then he has to prove he’s able to function at a high enough level in practice. Coaches share their thoughts based on what’s best for the team, too. As Eberflus alluded to, sometimes the front office gets involved.
The team wants to win, and win now. The team also values getting their players as much game experience as possible this season. It’s not only important in their evaluations moving forward, but important for players to develop in the new systems coaches have installed. Bottom line, health is the most important aspect in any decision as to whether or not a player is made active, or inserted into the lineup on gameday.
“If we ever feel that a player is going to go out there and harm himself, obviously, we’re gonna err on the side of caution for sure,” Eberflus said. “You know what I mean? We’re not gonna put a guy out there in harm's way and he doesn’t feel good about it for sure. We want to do what’s best for the organization but also what’s best for the player.”
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