Linebacker McPhee excited about returning to Bears practice

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • After missing the start of the season with an injury, Chicago Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee has returned to practice with the team.

    After missing the start of the season with an injury, Chicago Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee has returned to practice with the team. Associated Press/2015 file

 
 
Updated 10/14/2016 1:22 PM

For the first time since early January, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee practiced with the Bears, opening his 21-day window to be activated to the 53-man roster or returned to the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list.

The six-year veteran, a difference-maker when healthy, could return to the field as early as Thursday night's game against the Packers in Green Bay, but that could be wishful thinking after so much time off.

 

"You'll see," McPhee said when asked about playing against the Packers. "I'm blessed I get the opportunity to go out there and play football again. Y'all just wait on it. That's the only thing that matters. I'm healthy."

When he does return, McPhee is expected to boost a pass rush that has been inconsistent at best and nonexistent at worst. That has contributed to the Bears' 1-4 start.

They had 5 sacks last week, including 3 by outside linebacker Willie Young, in a 29-23 loss to the Colts. But there were more instances when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck wasn't pressured. In the first four games, the Bears had just 6 sacks.

"He was excited," coach John Fox said of McPhee's return. "It was good to see a smile on his face. He primarily did scout team work since he can't play this Sunday.

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"He looked good. He would like to (play this weekend). Unfortunately, they won't allow us to do that. I would lobby for that myself."

McPhee was arguably the Bears' best defensive player and best pass rusher in the first half of last season, leading the team with 5 sacks in the first seven games and getting his only interception. But he missed two games in the final half of the season and was far less than 100 percent in several others, when he was hampered by chronic knee soreness. He managed just 1 sack in the final nine games.

After practice, McPhee was exuberant in the lockerroom.

"I feel awesome, I feel great, man," he said. "I'm out there practicing, running around with my teammates, so that's the best feeling in the world.

"It's real tough seeing my brothers out there fighting, but ain't no more watching. I'm here now."

Early in the 2016 off-season McPhee had what was characterized as minor, arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Concerns about returning to his previous level were raised over the summer when he was unable to participate in any off-season practices. He has been on the PUP list since the start of training camp.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder was the first marquee free-agent signing by general manager Ryan Pace. He signed a five-year $38.75 million deal, including $15.5 million guaranteed after four years with the Ravens.

•  Wide receiver Marquess Wilson (fractured foot) did not return to practice Friday and remains in the PUP list.

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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