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Bears’ Pernell McPhee to start season on PUP list

Pernell McPhee started the season on the PUP list. (AP)

Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee can officially circle a game that already was highlighted on the Bears’ calendar.

With a left knee to rehabilitate and strengthen, McPhee will remain on the physically unable-to-perform list to begin the 2016 season.

As a result, McPhee will miss the first six weeks of the season, as specified by league rules, meaning the earliest he can return is Oct. 20 against the Packers on “Thursday Night Football.”

Signed to a five-year, $38.75 million contract, McPhee’s brash ways and big production helped turnaround a Bears’ defense coming off the two worst seasons in team history.

Over the first eight games, McPhee had six sacks, 16 quarterback pressures and seven tackles for loss.

But when McPhee’s knee issues flared up, his production and playtime decreased significantly over the second half of the season, which included two missed games.

McPhee’s current predicament raises the question whether he should have been deactivated at some point over the final eight weeks of last season. The Bears lost four of their last five games. McPhee underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in February.

McPhee’s work with trainers has increased over the past two weeks, but his progress has been limited.

It’s evident that McPhee is dealing with an issue that he has to be attentive of individually. It’s why there is a focus on his weight. It’s an effort to decrease the stress on his knee.

With McPhee out, veterans Willie Young and Lamarr Houston will start at outside linebacker. Sam Acho and first-round pick Leonard Floyd are the top reserves.