Justin Fields not motivated to face Trey Lance, 'glad' 49ers passed on him

·4 min read

Fields not motivated by 2021 draft, 'glad' 49ers passed on him originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST – Darnell Mooney opened eyes when he said Bears quarterback Justin Fields would make the San Francisco 49ers "pay" for passing on him in the 2021 NFL Draft when the two teams meet at Soldier Field in Week 1.

But ask Fields, and he'll tell you that's just "Moon being Moon."

The 49ers' decision to draft Trey Lance over Fields with the No. 3 overall pick in 2021 isn't part of Fields' motivation as he prepares to start his critical second season in the NFL.

"I don't take anything personal," Fields said Wednesday at Halas Hall. "I'm glad to be here. I'm glad they passed on me. I'm just ready to play this weekend.

"The draft is the draft. The draft doesn't matter at this point. Mooney, you can take Mooney, for example. He got passed by 32 teams, so it's like, you're in the league now, do your job now. Boom. Execute at a high level. It is what it is. It's Week 1. We're here to play ball. We're not worried about last year's draft, 'Oh, this team passed on me.' We're not thinking about that."

Fields has a lot of respect for Lance, who he has worked out with since before the draft process. Asked to describe the man 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan drafted instead of him, Fields was nothing by complimentary of Lance, who will be making his third career NFL start Sunday at Soldier Field.

"I think he's a good quarterback," Fields said, "Athletic. He's my guy. He's a good person, for sure."
Fields' motivation heading into Sunday's tilt with one of the NFC's best comes not from past slights or outside noise but from an internal fire.

"I just think that he's trying to be the best quarterback that he can be," head coach Matt Eberflus said of Fields' self-motivation. "He's proven that every single day since I've been here."
 
Fields has spent eight months working tirelessly to rebuild his footwork, change his mechanics, improve his pocket presence, and embrace the leadership role entrusted to him by the Bears' new regime.
 
Those long hours from January through August are what motivates Fields. He doesn't want the work he and the Bears have put in to be for naught.
 
"My guys in my locker room," Fields said when asked what motivates him. "Just seeing the work we put in. Coach says all the time, it's about us. It's not about the 49ers this week. It's about us — how we play; how we execute. So, I'm just playing for my teammates, playing for my coaches and going out here and executing to the best of my ability."

Fields has said all the right things leading up to a date with the team many thought he'd be a perfect fit for coming out of Ohio State. It's surely not lost on him that he ended up coming in a distant third behind Lance and Mac Jones on Shanahan's draft board. He's probably heard Shanahan was famously drawing up plays for Lance on the way home from attending Fields' pro day.

So maybe Fields will take the field Sunday at Soldier Field without thought to what could have been. Perhaps his focus truly is on the task at hand and not on trying to send a message to a team that decided he wasn't the guy for them.

But he's only human. Human nature tells us the best athletes, those with Fields' rare ability, are often driven by anything they can find to stick in their motivation tank. It requires zero mental gymnastics to get gassed up to face the team that passed on you. It's as straightforward as it gets.

If Fields does have extra juice this week because of the opponent, which he denies, the Bears are more than OK with it as long as the young signal-caller can harness it and use it to his benefit.

"Yeah, motivation is funny, isn't it?" Eberflus said. "Sometimes different people are motivated a certain way, and I think if you have that under control, meaning self-control, and use that the right way to motivate you, I think there's nothing wrong with that. That can be whatever. That can be anything."
 
For Fields, it might be multiple things. It might be everything. But he'll leave talk of payback to Mooney and his teammates. He's focused on everything else.

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