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Bears taking cautious approach, put Pernell McPhee on PUP list

Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee has six sacks for the Bears last season, but only one in the final nine games, when he struggled with a knee injury. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee will open training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he continues his recovery from offseason knee surgery.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace could not predict when McPhee will participate in practice, saying “it’s too early to tell” if he’ll even play in the preseason. McPhee can be activated at any time.

The Bears, who will hold the opening practice of training camp Thursday morning at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, are taking a cautious approach after McPhee struggled to play through the injury last season. McPhee will work with trainer Nate Breske and strength-and-conditioning coach Jason George until he’s ready to withstand the rigors of training camp.

“We’ve just got to acclimate him into football activities, so he’ll work with the trainers,” Pace said. “The good thing is he came in at a really good weight [in the upper 270s]. So I know he’s been working hard over the summer, so that’s very encouraging. … Now it’s going to be, ‘Hey, Nate and Jason, how do you feel?’ as we build him back in instead of just throwing him out there right awy with full-speed football drills.”

After signing a five-year, $38.75 million contract ($15 million guaranteed), McPhee played well in the first half of the season — he had seven tackles-for-loss, including five sacks, in a five-game stretch from Weeks 3-7. But he struggled with a knee injury in the second half. He missed two games and was much less effective in the final seven games he played (one sack, three TFLs).

McPhee had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the offseason and missed most of the offseason program, including all OTAs and mini-camp workouts.

The Bears are hoping that a lighter McPhee will be able to avoid further problems with his knee. He played in the 280s last year. They’d like him 10 pounds lighter this season.

“Just talking to our sports-science staff, we just feel if he can play in the 270s, he’s going to be quicker, better on the knee and still maintain the same power,” Pace said. “I just think the lighter you are, the less pressure on your knees. So for him playing at a lighter weight is going to be better, because he’s always going to be strong. He’s just got to keep his weight down a little bit.”