Bears NT Eddie Goldman ready to take off in 2017 — knock on wood

Coach John Fox looked at me like I had two heads when I asked him late in the 2015 season if the Bears would have been better off shutting down Pernell McPhee for a few weeks instead of having him play through a nagging knee injury.

“That doesn’t make much sense,” Fox said, almost incredulously. “A football player not playing football.”

The idea actually was pretty simple: Why not give McPhee a few weeks off to get close to 100 percent. It’s better to have him play the final four games at 95 percent than six of the final eight at 75 percent, or whatever percentage he was. 

Fox would have none of it. So McPhee struggled through the final half of the 2015 season with one sack and two tackles-for-loss and ended up having offseason surgery that lingered and eventually cost him the first six games of the 2016 season.

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman is an effective run-stopper, but he also has seven sacks in 21 NFL games in his first two seasons — including this one of the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick in Week 13 last season. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Maybe shutting McPhee down would have helped. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, his situation typified the difficulty the Bears have had in avoiding injuries and managing injuries in Fox’s two seasons.

A similar predicament befell nose tackle Eddie Goldman last season after he suffered an ankle injury in a pile-up against the Eagles in Week 2. Goldman missed six games, but struggled when he returned in Week 10 against the Buccaneers.

The second-round pick  in 2015 missed the following week, then played in three consecutive games, then missed the Packers game in Week 15 before being put on injured reserve. He played in six games but never more than three in a row.

“It was disappointing,” Goldman said Tuesday after participating in organized team activities at Halas Hall, “because I was coming into games trying to play and just ended up aggravating it and then missing the next game and then playing again. So yeah, it was kind of frustrating.”

Did he second-guess the decision to return while the ankle was still a problem? Would taking more time off to get it 100 percent have helped?

“It might have. I really don’t know,” Goldman said. “But if I would’ve sat out more, I wouldn’t have helped the team in those games. It can go either way.”

Even if it’s just another case of bad luck, those situations have to start going the Bears’ way if they are going to become a relevant team in the NFC North.

In just 21 games over two seasons, Goldman has showed that he can be a difference-maker when he’s at full strength. The 6-4, 325-pound nose tackle is a run-stopper who makes his teammates’ job easier and adds significant pass-rush ability. Goldman had at least a partial sack in three of the six games he played last year, and sacking the quarterback is a small measurement of his effectiveness.

Goldman is doing extra work to strengthen the ankle, but, other than keeping his fingers crossed, there’s not a whole lot he can do to work on avoiding another injury. “There’s little stuff you can do, but at the same time, it’s a risky game,” he said.

Now the challenge for Goldman is to play a full season after missing three games as a rookie and 10 last season.

“He kind of understands his body now,” defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. “He understands what he plays at. What works for him.”

If Goldman is thinking big, he’s not talking big. He laughed when told that “Year 3” in the NFL is when players like him often take off.

“That’s what they say, man,” he said. “It’s definitely a year to come out. [But] after last year I’ve got to re-establish myself.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

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