Bears' LB McPhee eager to put injury-ridden 2016 season behind him
He's lighter, he's healthier, and Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is anxious to play more than the 274 snaps he did last season when knee and shoulder ailments limited his playing time and effectiveness.
The 28-year-old McPhee is still rehabbing from the shoulder surgery he had after the 2016 season to repair a torn labrum. But he's in a better place than he was last year, when he spent the first six weeks of the regular season on the physically-unable-to-perform list following knee surgery.
McPhee even joked that he's better looking.
"I feel great," said the 6-foot-3 McPhee, who was listed at 280 when the Bears signed him in free agency before the 2015 season. "I'm almost 25 pounds lighter. I look sexier, you know what I'm saying? So it's definitely a blessing, and I can't wait 'til the season starts."
McPhee spoke at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, where he was honored as the Bears' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. The award, voted by teammates, goes annually to a player who symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication and is also a community role model.
The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is dedicated to supporting the well-being of abused, neglected and at-risk children in 25 NFL cities. In Chicago, it benefits the Ed McCaskey Scholarship Fund which donates to high school, college and vocational scholarships for the children of Maryville.
Bears chairman George McCaskey said having McPhee healthy for more than the nine games he played last season would be a huge help in rebounding from a 3-13 record.
"He's a dynamic player, and we need him on the field," McCaskey said. "When he is on the field, he makes things happen for us, so the more we can get him on the field, the better. He's a leader."
The Bears counted on getting a difference-making pass rusher and a stout run defender when they signed McPhee away from the Baltimore Ravens for $38.75 million over five years, including $15.5 million guaranteed. In 2015, his first season with the Bears, McPhee was third with 6 sacks and fourth with 64 tackles on a 6-10 team.
But last season, limited by his surgical knee early and the shoulder late, he had just 4 sacks and 28 tackles.
McPhee believes his improved health will be unhealthy for Bears opponents.
"It's going to be dangerous," he said. "Obviously last year wasn't a great year, and the year before wasn't one. So now, hopefully by me losing weight and staying focused, we can turn this thing around."