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Emma: Fiery McPhee Keeps Bears Hungry For Better

By Chris Emma--

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) -- With the season's second victory in hand, Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee buttoned up his Cubs jersey, fit his hat just right and delivered a message to keep for the bye week.

The Bears had just beaten the first-place Vikings, 20-10, on Monday night on Oct. 31, playing their best game of the season. McPhee was bothered by that. He felt it should've come sooner.

"I hope it pisses everybody off," McPhee said. "That's what I hope. I hope it pisses everybody off and (they) know we can dominate the league if we really put our mind to it. We just played a great team and we dominated them. So it's got to piss everybody off and say we shouldn't lose no more games to teams that we ain't got no business losing to."

The Bears' fiery leader, McPhee made sure his teammates knew it. They then went separate ways for the week and returned to Halas Hall still 2-6, three games back of the suddenly-open NFC North.

Consider that all the motivation McPhee's Bears can need. Does he have them still pissed off? Linebacker Sam Acho smiled and nodded yes just as McPhee answered.

"I told the guys the main thing is to stay pissed off and know where we're at and know where we could go," McPhee said.

Few in the NFL are quite like McPhee, whose constant intensity is such a draw to those around him. He was instantly voted a captain upon arriving in Chicago during the 2015 offseason after four years as a Ravens reserve.

But the league doesn't quite know McPhee just yet. He came from Baltimore after being buried away by playmakers, ready for his chance. Bears general manager Ryan Pace believed he found a star in McPhee. Injuries have prevented that from coming to fruition.

To appreciate McPhee and his drive, you have to first understand where it comes from. He won a Super Bowl in his second NFL season, playing alongside Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, the mainstays of that vaunted Ravens defense. He grew as a player and learned to lead a defense with that as an example.

McPhee arrived at Halas Hall and said he would be "violent," then backed it up when fully healthy. McPhee vowed revenge on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers after the Week 1 loss last year, then "slapped him on his ass," as he said after the triumphant Thanksgiving win at Lambeau Field. McPhee vowed to turn your teammates into "dogs" on the defense, and the unit has continued to blossom with its leader's identity.

While missing six games to start this season, McPhee was still a fixture in the locker room. Teammates are drawn to him.

Now comes his latest declaration to the Bears -- get mad and rally back this season. As McPhee gets fully engaged, his eyes go bug-eyed wide. Bears outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt compared it to a shark ready to attack its prey.

"It's an intensity," Hurtt said. "For me, I look at it and see he's ready to roll. For his teammates, they see that and think I better not screw up. It's good to have that back out there."

Added Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, borrowing one from Lil Wayne: "The only thing on the mind of a shark is eat."

McPhee has been hard to contain when healthy. A knee injury hampered him though much of the 2015 campaign, in which his sack total should've been much higher than six. An offseason procedure pushed his return back six weeks thanks to a stint on the physically-unable-to-perforn list. But McPhee has proved that he could be a bully of an edge rusher.

During that win over the Vikings, Sam Bradford felt McPhee's presence when he shook the quarterback and forced the ball loose. He has that ability to change the game on any play.

"When he's fully healthy, he can be a dominant player," Hurtt said. "A guy that as an offense, you got to be prepared to deal with."

McPhee has that unique ability to lead by just being himself. His intense demeanor inspires teammates around him. Respect came instantly at Halas Hall. There's more to be gained around the league.

Give a season of good health and McPhee could prove to be one of the game's most dominant edge rushers. He has that ability to overpower tackles and take down the quarterback. His presence is a constant disruption.

The future of McPhee is extremely bright, but as the Bears are mired in a difficult present, they have the right leader to keep them angry.

"The sky's the limit," said McPhee. "Only thing we've got to do is stay focused."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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