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3 things we heard from Chicago Bears coordinators, including Luke Getsy’s assessment of Justin Fields after Year 2


The Chicago Bears will wrap up their season Sunday at Soldier Field with a visit from the NFC North-champion Minnesota Vikings. Believe it or not, both teams have a little something to play for. The Vikings need a victory to solidify their playoff seeding. The Bears, meanwhile, could benefit from a loss, in position to cash in a 3-14 record for the No. 1 pick in April’s draft if the Houston Texans also can beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

On Thursday afternoon at Halas Hall, all three Bears coordinators spoke with the media. Here are the highlights of what we heard.

1. Alan Williams has been impressed with how Bears players have expressed themselves and rallied around each other in light of Damar Hamlin’s hospitalization.

Hamlin, a second-year Buffalo Bills cornerback, suffered cardiac arrest after making a routine tackle Monday night. He had to be revived and has been in critical but stable condition at a Cincinnati hospital. It was a terrifying episode that left members of the Bills and Bengals visibly shaken on the scene. And the emotional ripple effect for players and coaches around the league has been pronounced.

Williams said Thursday that the ongoing conversations at Halas Hall have been beneficial.

“Everyone processes troubling situations differently,” he said. “So we gave our players a platform to talk through what they were feeling in meetings and individually with professionals and with people that don’t deal with that on a normal basis, meaning coaches. It was a tough few days, especially if you saw it live.”

The Bears were back in practice mode Thursday at Halas Hall and have Sunday’s final game to focus on. And Williams has been heartened by the way the Bears have supported one another.

“You saw the way that players cared about each other; they talked to each other,” Williams said. “Some of the older guys took the younger guys under their wing like you would expect. Talked to them, walked them through it.

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“We have some people here that are professionals in that realm and you see how they just come in and the way they do their job with compassion, I just go, ‘Wow.’ ”

2. Richard Hightower was thrilled with the 63-yard kick return rookie Velus Jones broke off in the final seconds of Sunday’s first half.

With a greenlight to try to hit a big one, Jones received Jack Fox’s kickoff 8 yards into the end zone and came out on a right return with purpose. He picked up a crushing lead block from fellow rookie Trestan Ebner at the 15-yard line, found a crease and exploded for a 63-yard return that took the ball across midfield.

“He stemmed it really well,” Hightower said. “And his blockers did an outstanding job of getting back to their landmarks, playing penalty-free on that play, stepping to contact and keeping their hands inside. It really timed up nicely. Did I think there was an opportunity for a bigger play there? I did.”

That provided a teachable moment for Jones, who acknowledged Monday that he should have “pressed” Fox a little more to create room for a possible touchdown return. Hightower expanded on that sentiment Thursday, explaining Jones had the opportunity to stay toward the middle of the field a beat or two longer as he gained ground on Fox before steering out to the right sideline.

“It probably would have been six points,” Hightower said.

Jones has had a turbulent rookie season disrupted by injuries and marred by fumbling issues. He also has had only 14 offensive touches for 140 yards. But he has shown big-play ability as a kick returner and heads for the season finale averaging 29.2 yards per return, which ranks third in the NFL among players with at least 15 returns.

“He’s definitely trending arrow-up in a really good direction,” Hightower said. “And his blockers, I can tell you they enjoy blocking for him. It’s different when you have a guy back there who you know can go to the house.”

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3. With Justin Fields’ 2022 season over, Luke Getsy is encouraged by where Fields is headed as a quarterback.

Fields has been ruled out of Sunday’s finale because of a hip strain. Thus his second NFL season goes into the books with a 60.4 completion percentage, 2,242 passing yards, 17 touchdown passes, 55 sacks, 11 interceptions and an 85.2 passer rating.

He also became just the third quarterback in NFL history to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season, finishing with 1,143 plus eight touchdowns.

Getsy has loved Fields’ investment in his growth process and the leadership he has shown in commanding the team. In a process-driven environment, Fields has been consistently engaged, driven and responsive.

“The biggest thing we do is we’ll continue to challenge every player, and Justin for sure,” Getsy said. “Every day we’re going to come in and we’re going to challenge them, we’re going to demand things from them. As long as we see growth, we know we’re on the right path…. That’s what I saw every day. I continue to see that.

“As we go into next year, now he’s had this experience. He’s had his opportunities to get more comfortable with the communication of the system and hopefully get more comfortable with the people around him. It’s all that stuff. Any time you can get that cohesiveness of the unit together and knowing what the culture looks like and that he’s the leader of that culture, all that stuff is promising.”

Getsy believes Fields’ leadership traits, ownership of the team and unwavering daily work habits are important prerequisites for becoming a standout franchise quarterback.

“The results of it and the statistics that everyone’s looking for, those will come,” he said. “And we know that. The most important thing is that we continue to see growth.”

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