There’s no doubting that Pernell McPhee is a man full of confidence in both the Chicago Bears’ defense and his own individual ability. Part of that stems from the belief that when both are fully intact, they can truly be special. The pieces are there on the front seven. The talent and experience is present for McPhee.
Health, as it seems to often be in football, is a greater factor though. When available, McPhee is one of the best edge defenders in the NFL. When limited, or on the sideline, as it seems he’s often been in Chicago lately, it’s a helpless feeling.
McPhee, who has played in just 23 of 32 games over his first two seasons with the Bears, and who started 2016 on the physically unable to perform list, acknowledged his struggles as much after practice on Tuesday. But the 28-year-old isn’t going to dwell on the past. As usual, he sees a bright (and physical) future, especially after slimming down.
"Dominate. Destroy every opponent we face" - Pernell McPhee on his focus for this year.— Matt Eurich (@MattEurich) June 6, 2017
The “sexier” veteran reportedly lost 20 pounds this offseason and is ready to take advantage of that new frame.
Bears LB Pernell McPhee says he's lighter and moving around well in OTAs. He's healthy and eager to make an impact. "You know I can play."— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) June 6, 2017
Perhaps less stress will be put on a knee that’s robbed McPhee of his ability the past two years with the Bears. Any consistency on the field for him is no doubt a welcome sight for everyone at Halas Hall. That’s including McPhee’s teacher, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
"Vic is Vic man...he's a great play caller, a great coach, a great teacher" - McPhee on Vic Fangio.— Matt Eurich (@MattEurich) June 6, 2017
Now of course, McPhee wasn’t the only one to take the stand vowing better play moving forward or waxing poetically. His front seven teammate, Willie Young, also had some thoughts on the Bears moving forward.
First, he made sure to note that a team that only forced 11 turnovers last year, has to improve dramatically.
.@YoungWill79's #1 goal this season? Generating takeaways.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 6, 2017
More takeaways means more opportunities for the Bears offense and the defense can likewise get off the field in making more plays.
Much like McPhee, the 31-year-old Young also sees a lot of versatility on Chicago’s front seven. So much so, that he felt the need to break down some of the available players.
It wasn’t specified who Young was referring to, but an educated guess would venture on each of the top four current Bears outside linebackers.
Of the entire Bears defensive group, it appears they’re all also most excited to see their youngest student of the game, Leonard Floyd, flourish in his second professional season.
A dominant Floyd likely speaks more volumes than anyone else on Chicago’s defense so it makes sense.
Last, but certainly not least, rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky also spoke for the second time this OTA season. With Mark Sanchez’s injury last week, he is now taking second team repetitions.
"I'm getting the same amount of reps, maybe more." Trubisky says of Sanchez injury impact. "Instead of with the 3s, I'm with the 2s." #Bears— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) June 6, 2017
A welcome sight that perhaps pushes along Trubisky’s developmental cycle if he can thrive.
The first-year player is also keenly aware of how far he still has to go and the work that needs to come in conjunction.
Trubisky on biggest surprise: "It wasn't a surprise, but the realization of how much time you have to put in to be an NFL quarterback."— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) June 6, 2017
In due time, the process Trubisky is going through will no doubt or at least ideally, become routine. For now, it’s just about following the cliche of getting better every day, even while he’s still officially unsigned - which isn’t of any concern at the moment.
Trubisky on being unsigned: "That's not really for me to worry about...My agent & the Bears organization's going to handle that." #Bears— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) June 6, 2017
The time to panic on any contract for a Bears potential franchise player will come if Trubisky still isn’t signed by training camp. That’s a long shot considering the rookie pay scale and collective bargaining agreement, though.
In the last public OTA view of these Bears, it appears optimism is again at an all-time high. That’s a common theme for June. As Chicago puts everything together for the 2017 season, it’ll be about translating this good will onto the playing field in September. Easier said than done.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.