Just as he did leading up to Ohio State's College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson, Justin Fields used only six words to describe his health status going into Monday's national championship game against Alabama.
When Fields was asked about his thumb going into last week's Sugar Bowl, Fields responded simply, “I'll be good by Friday night.” That certainly turned out to be the case against Clemson, as he completed 22 of 28 passing attempts for 385 yards and tying Ohio State's school record with six touchdown passes to lead the Buckeyes to a 49-28 win over the Tigers.
Though his thumb appeared no worse for wear, Fields was in evident pain both during and following the game after taking a hard shot to his midsection in the second quarter against Clemson. But that didn't affect his play much against the Tigers, and when asked Thursday if he had any concerns about that affecting his play against Alabama, he responded the same way he did a week ago.
“I'll be good by Monday night,” Fields said.
Fields said he felt “definitely better than expected” the day after the game, “but the days that I didn't expect to wake up kind of hurting was two or three nights after the game.” That said, he said the pain hasn't had much effect on his preparation for playing the Crimson Tide.
“I really haven't thought about how this injury is going to affect how I'm going to play,” Fields said. “I'm just thinking about getting as much treatment as possible and trying to get my body right so it's 100 percent to be able to perform at a max level come Monday night.”
Neither Fields nor Ryan Day has specified exactly what his injury is, and that's by design, as there's no incentive for Ohio State to give Alabama detailed information about where he might be vulnerable.
After some people expressed concern that he was not properly evaluated by Ohio State's medical staff during Friday's game, though, Fields did want to clarify that he had full confidence in Ohio State's medical staff to act in his best interest.
“I think what I said after the game was kind of taken out of context. I just want to make one thing clear, it's that I have my full trust in the trainers here at Ohio State and Dr. (Jim) Borchers,” Fields said. “I wasn't hesitant on taking anything that they would give me, but I was just trying to do whatever I could do to get back on the field. I think those guys handled it the way I would have wanted it to be handled.
“I just put my full trust in those guys and I see how they deal with guys here, and I have personal relationships with all of them. I just don't want anything I've said in the postgame interview to kind of get taken out of context and to be like, ‘Oh, they just shot him up and sent him back out there.’ No. It wasn't like that. I think they did a full analysis of my injury and how it was, and they did what they thought was best. I was fully comfortable with that.”
Fields also said he wouldn't be playing if he didn't feel like he could protect himself.
“Me and Coach Day probably had some conversation about it, what certain plays we could run and couldn't run,” Fields said. “Other than that, if I can't protect myself then I don't need to be out on the field, so I thought personally that I was able to go out there and protect myself if something bad would happen.”
During an appearance on SportsCenter on Thursday night, ESPN's Maria Taylor said Fields told her he returned to practice for the first time on Thursday and will be wearing extra padding in Monday's game, but “he'll be fine.”