LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears veteran quarterback Andy Dalton will try the best he can to ignore the avalanche of attention rookie first-round pick Justin Fields is expected to receive in the preseason.
On Tuesday, Dalton, who forged a strong relationship with Fields in the offseason, mentioned on more than one occasion that he is the team’s starting quarterback and therefore must focus on leading the offense, and not be preoccupied with all the hype surrounding the 11th overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft.
“It [the attention] comes with that position,” Dalton said. “He’s a first-round pick. I understand that. But I also understand that I’m the starter. 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. That’s my focus.
“I’m not worried about all the stuff that’s going to 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.”
Entering his 11th NFL season, Dalton was named Chicago’s Week 1 starter by head coach Matt Nagy back in the offseason program — Fields is officially the backup and veteran Nick Foles is the third-string quarterback.
While Fields is unquestionably the future of the franchise, the Bears have expressed supreme satisfaction with Dalton’s performance since they signed him to the one-year contract worth $10 million, plus incentives.
“The number-one thing that I’ve seen from Andy thus far are the anticipatory throws,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “So in the passing game, Andy has all the leadership stuff, the stuff you look for where you break a huddle. If it’s a little sloppy, it doesn’t go right, he gets it right back in says no, no, no, do it again, let’s go, you do this, you do that, let’s roll. He has that, that’s easy.
“You can feel his experience and you can feel his confidence. He’s really confident. We talk about that inner confidence — Andy has that. Matt referred to how he operates in the huddle, how he is around the building. He’s a confident guy because, I think, the experiences that he has, and I think our players feed off of that.”
The experience of Dalton, 33, shone through when asked how he planned to navigate the pro-Fields crowds at training camp when practices open to the public on Thursday.
“I’m sure I’ll be making big plays, too, and hopefully they’ll be cheering at the same time,” Dalton said with a smile. “For me being the starter, hopefully they would see that if I’m making big plays, that’s good for everybody.”