LAKE FOREST – When fans show up to Halas Hall to watch the first open training camp practice since 2019, the focus will likely be on one place: No. 1.
Even though he’s not QB1, the selection and anticipation of the start of Justin Fields’ tenure in Chicago have reinvigorated fans after what’s been an up-and-down two years for the franchise. Hope is high that the former Ohio State quarterback can finally be the franchise quarterback which the team has tried and failed to find both recently along with the past.
That might leave the Bears’ current starter Andy Dalton in a weird place if Fields gets the heavy amount of the cheers from the gallery in Lake Forest over the coming weeks. But as he arrived at training camp this week, the veteran signal caller is keeping a healthy perspective as he leads the offense to begin the 2021 season.
“I’m sure I’ll be making big plays, too, and hopefully they’ll be cheering at the same time.,” said Dalton when asked how he would handle it if fans were to give major pops to Fields for a play during practices. “For me being the starter, hopefully, they would see that if I’m making big plays, that’s good for everybody.”
It’s a dynamic that will continue likely even into the regular season for the Bears in September as many fans are already calling for Fields to be named the starter ahead of Dalton. On multiple occasions, this offseason, both Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have reiterated that the veteran will be the team’s starter, not the rookie.
With the benefit of ten years of experience in the league, Dalton’s more than ready for it.
“It comes with that position. He’s a first round pick, I understand that, but I also understand that I’m the starter, and I understand that I knew I signed a one-year deal, I knew that I was going to come in and I was going to be the starter, regardless of the situation coming in, and so that’s my focus,” said Dalton. “I’m not worried about all the stuff that’s gonna be going on with Justin because that doesn’t affect me.
“At the end of the day, it’s what I’m going to be doing and everything. Justin and I have a really good relationship and I’m trying to help him out as much as I can.”
So far Dalton has been impressed with what Fields has been able to do as he got a chance to work with him during the OTA workouts at Halas Hall.
“He’s been great from the beginning,” said Dalton of Fields. “I think he’s come in and he’s learned well. You never know how teams call plays in college and different things but just to step in the huddle, being able to hear the play and call it. He’s getting better every day and so he’s got the right mindset, right mentality.
“He’s done a good job.”
As he tries to provide a veteran presence for Fields, he’s also got to make sure that he has a grasp on Nagy’s offense in hopes of keeping the starter job the entire 2021 season. There is some familiarity on the offensive staff with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, whom he worked with in Cincinnati, but there’s plenty of new wrinkles to get through before the September 12th opener against the Rams.
“When you get into it, you want it to become second nature. Every offense you go in, it just takes a little time,” said Dalton. “It’s one thing to read a play, to see it on a piece of paper. It’s another thing to get the play call, call it, to be in the huddle, directing guys, making sure everyone’s on the same page with what your doing.
“That was a big part of the spring is just the communication from getting the play call to communicating at the line, making sure everyone was on the same page and the way we’re doing things. Thankful for that time to really get into it and be in the offense.”
It’s one he’ll be leading to start the 2021 season, even if others would rather No. 1 would be QB1.