The hit happened early in the fourth quarter with Fields' Chicago Bears trailing the Chiefs 41-0. The hit left Fields woozy, and he left the game on fourth down for a sideline medical evaluation. He returned to the game on Chicago's next possession after being medically cleared and finished the final minutes of the 41-10 loss.
The hit happened on a third-down scramble from the 6-yard line on third-and-goal. Linebacker Willie Gay was in on the tackle, and his elbow made contact with Fields' face mask, sending Fields' head snapping back.
Willie Gay with a Peanut Punch right to Justin Fields’ face pic.twitter.com/2T1F41UXgt
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) September 24, 2023
Fields was visibly woozy after the play, catching the attention of his teammate DJ Moore, who pulled Fields away as his QB attempted to rejoin the huddle. Moore directed Fields toward the Bears' sideline.
Props to DJ Moore for being a good teammate after Justin Fields appeared to be injured pic.twitter.com/4syrSMCAGZ
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 24, 2023
With Fields briefly sidelined, the Bears kicked a field goal rather than go for it on fourth down. On Chicago's next possession, Fields returned to the game with Kansas City leading 41-3. He continued to play until the end of the 41-10 loss.
After the game, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was asked about Fields' medical status and his decision to return to a game that was already lost and had already seen the Chiefs pull QB Patrick Mahomes in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert.
“He was cleared," Eberflus said. "We were going for it on fourth down there. He came out, so I decided to kick the field goal. Then he was cleared, and he was ready to go.”
Fields didn't address the incident in his postgame news conference.
NFL standards on return to play
NFL teams face stricter standards for clearing players to return to play following head contact after a second blow to the head in two weeks left Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hospitalized last season. Tagovailoa was cleared after sustaining the first of the two head injuries and returned to a Week 3 game against the Buffalo Bills. Another blow to his head in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals put Tagovailoa in the hospital.
The standard adopted during the 2022 season now cites signs of ataxia as reason for removing a player from a game. Per a joint statement from the NFL and NFLPA in 2022:
"Ataxia is defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue. In other words, if a player is diagnosed with 'ataxia' by any club or neutral physician involved in the application of the concussion protocol, he will be prohibited from returning to the game and will receive the follow-up care required by the protocol."
Per Eberflus, Fields was cleared of those standards before he returned to Sunday's game.