Any new movement is a good sign for Bears outside linebacker Pernell McPhee.
Before the Bears played the Patriots on Aug. 18, that meant running in different ways, whether it was raising his knees or extending his legs, as part of a workout that went longer than that of other injured players.
On Monday at Halas Hall — 13 days before the Bears open the regular season against the Texans in Houston — McPhee’s movements included dropping back as though in pass coverage.
The issue is that McPhee is working apart from the team. His activities have increased, but he remains on the physically unable-to-perform list after having surgery on his left knee in late February.
And it’s unclear whether he’ll be ready for the opener.
‘‘With me, I don’t like putting timelines [on injuries], but I think he’s closer than he was last week,’’ coach John Fox said when asked about McPhee’s dropbacks and how close he is to returning. ‘‘We’re just going to continue to stretch that out on what he can do, some of the change-of-direction things, which are part of football. But our training staff does an excellent job. When he’s healthy, we’ll have him out there.’’
But when? Fox stressed evaluations of McPhee are ongoing, with the Bears needing to pare their roster to 53 by Saturday.
Do the Bears hold a roster spot for McPhee, even though he can’t play immediately? Does McPhee remain on the PUP list, giving him more time to improve and the team more flexibility with personnel?
Fox seemed to suggest the PUP list was a real option. If that happens, McPhee would be subject to the same rules receiver Kevin White was last season. That starts with missing the first six weeks of the season.
The difference between McPhee and White is that McPhee is expected to play at some point. White was a long shot to appear in the regular season from the moment it was announced he would have shin surgery.
Fox was asked whether McPhee’s work was a matter of getting into game shape or continued rehabilitation.
‘‘All of it is movement skills, whether it’s in-game or out-of-game, that need to be evaluated,’’ Fox said.
So what’s really going on with McPhee’s knee? He had arthroscopic surgery, a procedure that typically doesn’t lead to lengthy absences.
When asked about McPhee, outside linebacker Willie Young described him as bouncing back from ‘‘what used to be career-ending injuries.’’
Young, of course, might not know the details of McPhee’s situation.
Either way, it’s apparent McPhee has to be mindful of his knee. It’s why general manager Ryan Pace said in Bourbonnais that it was possible McPhee wouldn’t play in the preseason. It’s also why McPhee’s weight is a topic of conversation.
‘‘You’re mindful of all of it,’’ Fox said. ‘‘It does come with the game. We dealt with it last year. He had a procedure done that we’re still evaluating.’’
For now, signing McPhee to a five-year, $38.75 million contract in March 2015 remains a strong move by Pace.
With passion and brashness, McPhee helped change the complexion of the Bears’ defense after the two worst seasons in team history. He was the Bears’ best defender last season, especially in the first eight games, when had six sacks, 16 pressures and seven tackles for loss. But McPhee’s production and playing time decreased when his knee became too bothersome.
Outside linebacker is a deep position for the Bears, but they still miss their best one.
‘‘[It’s] the physical mentality he brings to the game,’’ Young said.