Release the Hounds: The Return of Pernell McPhee

You can bet that die-hard Bears fans are fully aware that outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is ready to return from injured reserve.  What can we expect from him and how will he impact the Bears defense and the team as a whole?

If you have been keeping track of the Chicago Bears during the last few days, you should know that star outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is back at practice and getting ready for his 2016 debut.  He has a practice window of 21 days and during that time, the Bears can activate him to the active roster.  If they decide not to active him, he would go on injured reserve for the rest of the year.

McPhee has been consistently injured during the course of his career with the Bears.  His 2015 season was filled with being held to a snap count to keep him fresh.  He did miss two games as well.

When he was in the lineup, McPhee was electric.  He wreaked havoc with opposing offenses and gave quarterbacks fits.  In his first season in Chicago, he racked up 53 total tackles with eight assists.  He had three passes defended, six sacks, one interception and a forced fumble.  All this playing in 14 total games with 12 starts.

What doesn’t show on the stat sheet is the effort and ferocity that McPhee brings to the game.  You can see him inspiring his fellow defenders on the sideline during while the offense is on the field.  He’s having “conversations” with opponents on the field all the time.  And who can forget that wild-eyed look he has all the time.

If there is a leader on the Bears, it’s McPhee.  When the Bears were struggling last year, he stepped up and said all the right things.  He voiced everyone’s frustration.  He was a media favorite because he told the truth in his own enlightening way.

Oct 4, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman (91) celebrates with Chicago Bears defensive end Jarvis Jenkins (96), Chicago Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) and Chicago Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston (99) after he sacked Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The Bears had every intention of singing McPhee during the 2015 free agency period.  They were looking for a player to be the “face” of their new 3-4 defense and McPhee was perfect.  They pursued him and signed him to a contract which was good for five years totaling $38.75 million.  It was time for the Bears to build the new defense around him.

But McPhee has one major issue that he has struggled with since coming to Chicago.


McPhee spent a fair amount on the injury report in 2015.  It all started when he was deemed questionable for the Cardinals game with knee and wrist issues.  The knee issues would give him trouble all season.

Fast forward to the tenth week of the season and McPhee was out of that week’s game with his lingering knee injury.  Three weeks prior to that he was on a snap count (playing a certain number of snaps) because of the issues he was having with that knee.  You could tell the defense really missed him.

Moving ahead to the third week of December, McPhee had missed the two previous games by then with his constant knee problem.  The team didn’t appear to be ready to put him on injured reserve for the rest of the season at that point.  Instead, they stated that he would be limited in practice and games.  But at that point in the season, it didn’t appear necessary to keep McPhee active because the Bears were out of the playoff picture. It was better for the team to get him healthy for 2016.

About a week after, reports came out stating that McPhee needed to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after the season.  McPhee had issues with the same knee prior to the start of the 2015 season (it was made known) and it had flared up again.  It kept him out of some games and limited in others.  McPhee and the team needed him healthy more than they needed him playing at that stage in the season.

Early in the offseason, McPhee had a knee scope to do some cleanup on the ailing knee.  No one knew, at the time, if he would be ready by OTAs but reports stated that he would be ready by training camp.  All eyes were on McPhee’s left knee, for months, waiting for some kind of work on whether or not he would be ready for the start of the coming season.

In July, Chicago put McPhee on the physically unable to perform list.  It was highly likely, at that time, he wouldn’t be participating in any preseason games.  To some, it appeared as if that knee was a lot worse off than first thought.

General Manager Ryan Pace discussed McPhee’s knee issues and stated that they wanted him healthy for the coming season.  This trumped having him participate in the preseason.  To the team, a healthy McPhee was a very important part of the Bears plans on defense in 2016.  They needed him to be ready.

Two weeks prior to the start of the season, McPhee was still on the PUP list.  The staff downplayed this and didn’t give anyone a concrete answer on McPhee’s status.  Many experts figured that McPhee’s injury was much more serious than first thought and he would miss more time than anticipated.

Prognosticators were correct in their assumption that McPhee wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season.  Early in September, the team released information stating that McPhee would be on the PUP list to start the year.  This meant that he would be eligible to come back and play in Week 7.  So, it did appear that McPhee’s knee surgery was a lot more serious than first thought and perhaps the injury was much more serious.  No one really knows.

Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) reacts during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Current Status

What matters now is that McPhee gets back on the field.  The Bears need his production on defense as well as his ability to make opponents plan their offensive snaps around him.  As previously stated, he is a leader both on defense and for the team and he brings ferocity and fire to that defense.  This is something that every team needs.

No one has come out and said, for sure, if the Bears will activate McPhee for the Bears next game.  Chicago will travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers on this Thursday night and it’s doubtful McPhee will be ready by then.  Maybe he will be ready for Chicago’s game against the Minnesota Vikings the following week?

What is most important is that McPhee be totally healthy when he returns.  The worst case scenario would be that he is hurt right away and can’t play the rest of the season.  But if he can come back, stay healthy and play hard he will be a huge asset to the defense as well as the team.

So keep an eye on what happens with McPhee over the next couple of weeks.  As previously stated, it’s doubtful the Bears will activate him for their game against the Packers this Thursday. Chicago could bring McPhee back by the time they play the Vikings and that’s a better bet.  That would be big.  Right now, the Bears need someone like McPhee to help inspire them and shine a beam of light on this dark season.

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