Dec 10, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) is helped up from the ground after getting tackled against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
LAKE FOREST — Justin Fields has grown accustomed to taking big hits.
Some of those tackles would likely draw a penalty flag for most other quarterbacks, but not for the 6-foot-3, 228-pound leader of the Bears.
But Fields does his part to bring up the topic to the officials.
“I talk to them (the refs) before every game,” Fields said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “Literally talk to the ref before every game. It happened on the first play of the game (against Detroit at Soldier Field) and didn’t get the call. I really can’t do anything about it, so get up and move on to the next play.”
Unfortunately, that’s the reality Fields has experienced during his first three seasons in the NFL. At this point, he isn’t astonished by the lack of no-calls because they “happen a lot.”
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said on Monday he is always talking to the refs throughout games to ensure Fields is protected. Fields’ teammates have also noticed the lack of flags their quarterback receives when he steps onto the football field.
Here is what some of them had to say about the lack of penalties being thrown.
What is your reaction when you see Fields get hit late and there is no flag thrown?
“I actually mentioned that during the game. You know I was watching him, seeing him get hit, and I’m like, ‘Gosh, why does he never seem to get those calls.’ I think maybe, you know, since he kinda has that label as a running quarterback and he kind of puts himself in that, I guess, runner’s mode or kind of gives himself up to being a runner I guess so many times that maybe refs kinda see it as that. And they’re kinda more, you know, hang on to flags more.
“I go back to the Monday night game. I think it was last week, Packers versus the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is running, doesn’t slide, he’s still in bounds and two feet in the green and the DB from the Packers, I think it was Owens comes up and knocks him clean out. I thought it was a clean hit, but, you know, they called late hit on the quarterback. I’m just sitting here like, ‘If that was Justin, they’re not calling that.’ He had hits like that in the Detroit game when we were in Detroit. It’s interesting see that whole dynamic play out. I’m not sure why the refs kind of do that. It definitely is frustrating, you know, to see him take all those hits constantly, but he bounces back — which is good. It’s good, but man for him to continue taking those hits, it’s tough. I think we all kind of see the same thing.”
What does it do for you and the team when you do see your quarterback get up after some of those hits?
“We have a tough quarterback back there. He was getting sacked quite a bit earlier in the season, and I’m just sitting there watching him like this dude just keeps getting back up and fighting, you know what I’m saying? That’s what you love to see. … I’ll say now being a rookie in the NFL and kinda seeing being on the field how tough you have to be to play quarterback. Just from the standpoint physically you’re very, what’s the word, defenseless at times. Where you’re just going to have to stand in the pocket, and on TV, those guys are big and strong but now that I’m out there blocking some of these guys and seeing how strong they are, now this dude is getting hit whether he has to step up in the pocket, knowing a hit is coming. So you just have that much more, at least I do, have that much more greater respect for the position.”
When you don’t see a flag after Fields takes a hit, what is your overall reaction?
“I don’t really mess with it. I think they need to give him those calls and treat him like every other quarterback in the league that gets hit like that. Just cause he is a runner or just cause he makes plays with his feet I don’t think it’s fair that, you know, he doesn’t get those calls.”
Why do you think the officials don’t throw the flags? Is it because he isn’t built like most other quarterbacks?
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I think a couple years back like the same thing was happening to Cam Newton. Maybe it’s the style of play. Maybe it’s the fact that he does make so many plays with his legs that they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s a runner.’ I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t make no assumptions on what is going on in their head why they don’t call it. I just know that they should be calling it.”
Velus Jones Jr.
How do you feel when you see your quarterback get hit and there is no flag being thrown to protect him?
“I mean, it’s really sickening. Like I said, that is our quarterback, but overall he is like a brother to me. We just want everybody protected, coming out of games healthy and stuff like that. I feel like that’s really the bigger picture, you know our health, and just to see him not get those calls, I mean it’s frustrating. I mean I feel like if it’s a certain quarterback, which I’m not going to say any names or stuff like that. I mean I’ll use Tom Brady for instance. If Tom Brady is sliding and somebody even lands on him, a call is coming. I feel like it should be equal across the board, and that is just something you hate to see and it happened on multiple occasions.”
So, why doesn’t he get the calls? Is it because he’s bigger and can use his legs?
“I don’t know if they try to stereotype the quarterbacks or anything. It’s just like he’s physical. I mean he can take hits and stuff like that. He does run and stuff, but he deserves equality like when it comes to things like that. If he is sliding, there shouldn’t be any reason anybody should be landing on him or hitting him in the head or anything like that and it happened multiple times and so. Hopefully that changes soon.”
Obviously your job is to protect the quarterback, but what is your reaction when you see him get hit late and there is no flag in sight?
“I think it’s kinda crap. I think it’s cause he’s obviously running maybe a little bit more than most quarterbacks, but at the end of the day it isn’t even about if he’s a quarterback or what he is. I just think it’s about protecting the players. I mean anybody getting a late hit like that I just think it’s kind of, they need to address it a little bit, because it’s every play I think, every time. Obviously, you know, I think he’s doing a good job. He’s not trying to fake slide or he’s not even trying to take hits. I think he’s been getting down and being extra cautious about getting down, and he’s still getting late hit.
“Then the guy is going off doing one of those (makes a hand gesture to show the defender didn’t do anything) to make it seem like it’s fine. I just think they need to protect him a little bit more. Obviously it is tough when he does run a little bit more than most quarterbacks, but at the end of the day this is about protecting the guy for the rest of his life. Not necessarily just for a season or for the time he is in the NFL. Let’s think about later in life, and these guys getting CTE and stuff like that, so all the same stuff. Obviously you would like to see some called. There have definitely been ones this year where I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah that should’ve been called.’ It’s definitely alarming. I could go back and at least pull four, five clips of it being a clear roughing the passer or late hit or whatever it’s called. I definitely think it’s something that should be talked to a little bit about, especially when you have a game like ours. It needs to be cleaned up I would say.”
What is your reaction when you see a potential late hit on Justin and there is no penalty?
“Yeah, I mean I think every defender knows how quarterbacks are treated in the league as well. I mean it’s something we haven’t seen called, especially at home, in two years. I mean I don’t know what it’s going to take for them to finally call it. I mean sooner or later he is going to get hit really bad and nobody wants to see that. So we want to protect him, but yeah it has been something that I think has been going on for a little bit too long. Hopefully they can do something and get him protected.”
Does the lack of penalty flags for Fields get talked about in the locker room?
“I don’t know. I mean it’s tough to say anything after the fact. It’s one of those deals where it’s got to be in the moment. It’s your chance to call it. If it doesn’t get called, there isn’t much we can do about it. I think it’s something we might not talk about it all the time, but everyone realizes it. What was it the first play of the game last week? I mean, it was everyone on the sideline saying that you know. Hopefully next time it’s called, and hopefully he is not hit like that.”
Right now, it appears all Fields can do right now is hope that those obvious and unnecessary hits are flagged. He has made an effort to give himself up and slide. His teammates and head coach have voiced their displeasure. Now, it’s up to the officials to do their job on game days.
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