During the offseason, Pernell McPhee was feeling good about the future, saying he felt sexier after losing weight in an attempt to offset any problems carrying additional weight would give his surgically repaired knee.
Unfortunately, hours after the Chicago Bears’ brass boasted about a clean slate and a healthy start to the 2017 season, McPhee was placed on the physically unable to perform list because of problems that came up with his other knee during physicals. Shortly after moving to the PUP list, McPhee had a scope performed to clean up the knee. Head coach John Fox tried to downplay the surgery as a routine scope, but nothing is routine when it comes to injured Bears players and it’s hard to downplay a surgery for a projected starter.
And yet, here we are weeks later and the Bears are still waiting to make a more long-term decision on McPhee. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes the Bears aren’t expected to activate McPhee from the preseason PUP list until after Sunday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at the earliest. Fox added he didn’t expect it to happen before Sunday’s contest, adding “When he’s cleared medically, he’ll be out there.”
McPhee missed the first six weeks of the 2016 season while recovering from offseason surgery on his other knee the year before, and could find himself in the same predicament to start 2017. The 6-foot-3, 269-pound outside linebacker was expected to lead an improved Bears pass rush, setting a high bar to clear with his comments during OTAs predicting a healthy unit would “dominate” and “destroy” the competition.
A healthy McPhee could back those predictions up. In his final year with the Baltimore Ravens, McPhee earned an 85.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. He then followed it up with an 86.7 grade in his first season with the Bears, a year in which he collected six sacks. But after picking up five in his first seven games, McPhee saw his production decline at the same time his health did as he finished with just one sack over his final seven games.
Unlike last season, the Bears have more depth along the defensive front seven – including five edge defenders with starting experience in the NFL. Ideally, the Bears won’t be forced to play the waiting game much longer regarding McPhee’s health. They seem better positioned to handle his absence this time around, but would rather not have to spend an extended amount of time without a player expected to be a key cog in the defense.