Why Justin Fields playing in a spring season wouldn't be the most surprising thing
All along, it’s been assumed that Justin Fields would not play in a spring season because it’s so close to the NFL Draft. In fact, many people would argue that it is foolish for him to do so. Some expected him to opt out of the fall season.
But Fields, to the delight of Ohio State fans, continues to advocate for a fall season, despite being a virtual lock to go in the top 5 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. The 2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up teamed up with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to lead the #WeWantToPlay movement on social media in a desperate attempt to save the fall season before the Big Ten announced a few days later that it was postponing.
On Sunday, Fields introduced his newest initiative: a petition to urge Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to reconsider his position on a fall season. It garnered 20,000 signatures in less than an hour, reached 150,000 by Sunday night and is still growing. It’s a noble effort, considering Fields could disappear for the next 8 months and sign a $30 million contract that will change his family’s life forever. Simply put, Fields doesn’t need this season.
That’s why it’s very interesting that he is on the front lines of this battle and leading the charge. He’s not zeroed in on his future payday. In fact, just 2 weeks ago as his peers were opting out of the season, he said, “Getting to the money as fast as I can isn’t really a priority.” He clearly is still hurting from the way last season ended in the College Football Playoff against Clemson and recognizes the chance to cement himself as a legend with a national championship and a Heisman Trophy.
Fields has said nothing of a spring season, but based on his actions, would it be completely surprising if he wound up playing? If you had asked me that 1 month ago, I would say yes. Now, I’m not so sure.
Before you get your hopes up, Buckeye fans, I believe a few things would have to happen for this to come to fruition.
For one, the season would probably have to start in January and end in March, with plenty of time before the NFL Draft and about 6 months of recovery time before his rookie season in the NFL. Don’t worry about the Combine, as Fields isn’t competing in that anyway (it’s become increasingly rare for top QBs to throw). It wouldn’t make sense for Fields to play in a season that starts in late February, like Jeff Brohm’s proposal, and goes until late May because of the lack of recovery time. That’s why Ohio State coach Ryan Day is pushing for a January start, because it gives him a better chance of some of his draft-eligible players actually playing.
The second important domino is that the SEC, ACC and Big 12 would also have to postpone their fall seasons and move to the spring. I really believe Fields relishes playing against the top competition, which is the driving force behind his desire to save this season. He wants to be a champion. He wants to avenge the loss to Clemson. He wants to beat the school that didn’t start him, Georgia. But if it’s just the Big Ten and Pac-12 in the spring, that becomes far less appealing because going undefeated without getting a chance at Clemson or the SEC wouldn’t add anything to his legacy.
The third and final piece of this puzzle is his rival, Lawrence. I’m not sure if this is the most important or least important of the 3, but it would certainly help. If Lawrence — the consensus top pick in the 2021 draft — opts into a spring season, I have a hard time believing that Fields would be able to resist playing and competing with the fellow Georgia high school product. Lawrence, so far, has edged Fields in every way. He was the No. 1 recruit in the 2018 class, while Fields was No. 2. Then Lawrence earned a starting job as a freshman and won a national championship, while Fields was a backup at Georgia and wound up transferring. Then they faced off in the CFP last season, with Lawrence prevailing. If Lawrence is playing, I think Fields is, too.
That’s a lot that has to happen, I know. But Fields is a different dude. So is Lawrence. So was Zion. Remember when many in the media thought he should have sat out the rest of the season after bursting through his shoe against North Carolina? Even though he was a lock to go No. 1 overall, Zion returned to the Duke lineup in time for the NCAA Tournament, because as it turns out, money isn’t everything. Some in the media forget that college athletes enjoy playing their sport with their friends.
Is it likely that Fields participates in a spring season? No, definitely not. But I believe there is a scenario in which Fields winds up playing.
There’s a reason that Fields is vehemently pushing for a fall season. He feels like he has unfinished business. If an early spring season affords him all that he is seeking, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he shocks everyone and suits up.