By Dan Bernstein– senior columnist

(CBS) Expectations being what they are for the 2017 Bears, let’s keep them commensurately low for their first exhibition game Thursday night, the first actual football they have played in months.

When we last left them as they were actually hitting people and tackling to the ground, Bears were dropping like flies. In fact, the analysis of man/games lost due to injury by Football Outsiders revealed that the Bears had the single most debilitated year since they began tracking such numbers, a season that included 12 players who missed at least six games.

So general manager Ryan Pace snapped into action by diving into all the sports science he could, and both he and coach John Fox are now talking about nutrition, preparation, diagnostics and more mindful practice schedules, all in the effort of keeping players available.

They aren’t contending for anything, certainly, but any positive direction for the players who matter could be hindered by absences that alter ideal timetables and workloads due to necessity rather than choice. Already, linebacker Pernell McPhee has had another knee surgery, and interior offensive lineman Eric Kush tore his hamstring, so it’s not off to a promising start.

Real enough football is upon them now, and they need to show they can hold up better after setting the wrong kind of record last year.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

Watch & Listen LIVE