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At long last, Bears OLB Aaron Lynch takes first big step on comeback trail

Bears outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (left, tackling Bears running back Jeremy Langford in 2015) had 12.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons, but 2.5 in the last two seasons, when he missed 18 games. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Aaron Lynch’s paradox is similar to many other star-crossed athletes: blessed with immense talent but seemingly cursed by a body that just won’t hold up.

“Earlier in my career it was frustrating,” the Bears outside linebacker said, “because anybody who plays in the NFL wants to play football. That’s all I want to do. I want to play football. So when you’re rolling and then you get hurt, and your out for a little bit, it’s easy to get frustrated and be a downer.

“But it comes back to the cliche — control what you can control. When you’re on the field, control what you can control. And if you can’t be on the field, control what you can control off the field so you can get back and do what you’ve shown [you can do].”

The Bears are waiting ever so patiently for Lynch to recover from his latest injury — a pulled hamstring that typified Lynch’s struggle to stay healthy — after missing part of the offseason program with an ankle injury he suffered in the April minicamp and a hamstring injury in the June minicamp.

“Couldn’t believe it,” the 6-6, 270-pound Lynch said, “because I had just come off the injury and I was like, ‘I’m fresh to go.’ And then when I [aggravated] it, it was a downer and I went, ‘Dang,’ I can’t believe this just happened — first day, a new start for me.”

Lynch took the first step toward another new start Thursday when he participated in warmups and individual drills in practice at Halas Hall.

“Oh [bleep], it felt great,” Lynch said. “Just being able to smell the fresh air and actually have a helmet on and play a little bit of football. Limited, but it felt good to be back doing some drills.”

Lynch is aiming to come back for the preseason finale Aug. 30 against the Bills at Soldier Field. But even Lynch doesn’t know what lies next.

As much as he wants to control what he can control, he knows he’s at the mercy of his problematic physical health. He looked pretty smooth and healthy running Thursday, but that means little until the next day.

“It’s really a day-by-day type of thing,” he said. “We’ll see what my body lets me do.”

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With Leonard Floyd likely to be inhibited at least at the beginning of the season with a cast on his broken right hand, the Bears need Lynch to regain his early NFL form to fortify an edge-rushing group that was thin to begin with.

Lynch had 12½ sacks in his first two seasons with the 49ers in 2014 and 2015, including six sacks under current Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in 2014. But ankle and calf injuries and a four-game suspension limited him to 2½ sacks in 14 games the last two seasons, and the 49ers let him go in free agency.

“It can get tough [to be patient],” coach Matt Nagy said. “But I think one of my strengths is understanding that what’s important is that first game. [He’s] got to be in football shape. We have a good plan with conditioning him. The luxury with him is he’s come from this defense with Vic. That’s a benefit for us.”

Lynch is eager to reward the Bears for their patience.

“The confidence level is through the roof,” Lynch said. “It’s easy when you’re hurt to be down. But when you’ve got an organization that’s behind you and they’re always trying to keep you up, then your confidence level will stay up.

“That’s where I’m at right now, because this organization has been great to me so far. As far as Vic and everybody else, it’s been a great time, a great experience. And I want to be here a long time.”