When Is It Time to Worry About Pernell McPhee?

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is still on the PUP list. When is it time to start worrying?

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It came as a mild surprise when Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace announced that outside linebacker Pernell McPhee would start training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.  McPhee had undergone an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee back in February, so maybe he wasn’t quite ready to hit the ground running when camp opened at the end of July.

But as the calendar has turned to late August and the regular season rapidly approaching, is it time to worry that the Bears’ most disruptive pass rusher might not be available for the start of the season?

An astute question from @brandonmacd came to the Brad Biggs’ mailbag back in June, asking if McPhee’s knee injury was worse than the Bears were letting on:

"I think you’re probably jumping the gun on that right now. When I wrote in February about the arthroscopic surgery that McPhee had on his left knee following the season, I said it was unknown if McPhee would be available during the offseason program but that he was not expected to have restrictions in training camp like fellow outside linebackers Willie Young and Lamarr Houston experienced last summer.I have not been told anything to the contrary to this point so I’m operating as if McPhee will be ready to roll when the Bears arrive in Bourbonnais in late July. He was very disruptive for the defense in the first half of last season and the Bears hope he will be more durable in Year 2 of his free-agent deal."

It looks like @brandonmacd was on to something as McPhee has yet to suit up and could miss the start of the regular season.  But McPhee has dealt with injuries throughout his career.

After being drafted in the fifth round out of Mississippi State in 2011, McPhee had a breakout rookie campaign, recording six sacks and 23 tackles in a reserve role.  He had offseason surgery following his rookie campaign that cost him part of training camp in 2012.  The Ravens website documented some of his medical issues in his second season:

"He had offseason knee surgery that knocked him out of some of training camp. Then, on his very first play of the regular-season, Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis went low on a block. He clipped McPhee’s knee and sent him airborne.McPhee didn’t come immediately out of the game, but he said the hit damaged his medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments.After coming back from that, McPhee said he suffered a torn groin. He’s been playing through that injury ever since and missed just four games total."

One of the knocks on McPhee coming out of Baltimore was that he had only been a part time player.  With the Ravens depth at linebacker, McPhee was more of specialist who didn’t see the field as much.  In his career at Baltimore, he’d never played more that 48% of the team’s defensive snaps.

It was a big question whether he could hold up to the wear and tear of a bigger role when he signed with the Bears.  Others think the Ravens knew that McPhee was “damaged goods” which is why they let him go in free agency in 2015.

Next: Preseason Week 2 Notes

I’ve heard some insiders on sports talk radio make some scary comparisons between McPhee and another Chicago Bear whose injuries derailed his career, Tommie Harris.  Harris came into the league and helped turn the Bears’ defensive front into a force.  He was as disruptive an interior defensive lineman as we’d seen in years around Chicago.  Even though he didn’t finish the season, he had a big impact helping get the Bears back to the Super Bowl in 2006.

Harris was never the same player after tearing his hamstring.  He still played several years and had flashes of his former self, but the explosiveness just wasn’t there.  We can only hope that the comparisons between McPhee and Harris are unfounded and McPhee gets back to the starting lineup soon.  As injuries pile up for the Bears, they desperately need him back.

Do you think McPhee makes it back for the season opener?  Do you think he’ll miss games? Share your thoughts on McPhee below.