Pernell McPhee didn’t show up to training camp in late July expecting to be paced on the physically unable to perform list. So when the Bears found an issue with his knee during physicals, it caught the veteran outside linebacker off guard.

“It was surprising,” McPhee said. “But a lot of things happen for a reason. Some things you can’t prepare for. You’ve just got to take that challenge and go with the best way you know. Just getting ready for whatever’s coming.”

McPhee didn’t come off the PUP list during training camp, remaining largely out of sight in Bourbonnais. He was activated over the weekend and was in attendance for his first practice on Monday, giving him a short window to prepare if he’s able to play on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

McPhee didn’t guarantee that he’ll play Sunday (“that’s God’s will,” he said) but when he does return, he expects to play at 100 percent.

“I just got to be smart,” McPhee, who missed time with knee injuries in 2015 and 2016, said. “I’m going to go 100 percent every time until my body totally breaks down. Just being smart and making the plays that present itself for me. And just helping my team win the best way I can.

“… You can’t worry about injuries. That’s part of football. You’ve just got to worry about attacking the next day, the next day, the next moment.”

The Bears, too, don’t want McPhee to hold back when he plays.

 

“You can't coach it carefully and you can't play it carefully,” coach John Fox said. “It's not a careful game, it's not chess.”

Whenever McPhee does play his first snap — preseason included — of the 2017 season, his return would be a welcome addition to an outside linebacker group that saw Lamarr Houston placed on injured reserve over the weekend. Adding a guy with 10 sacks in 23 games with the Bears would help strengthen a unit headlined by Willie Young (7 1/2 sacks in 2016) and Leonard Floyd (7 sacks in 2016).

Without McPhee, though, the Bears’ front seven played well during its August dress rehearsal for the regular season. Floyd, in particular, had an excellent preseason, while the rest of the Bears’ defensive line and linebackers flashed some reasons for optimism.

“They were animals,” McPhee said. “I’ve been excited all camp watching them, of course the preseason if you look at it, they looked like some animals. I’m excited to join them.”