LAKE FOREST – The first time Khalil Mack faced his old team, it was at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. It wasn’t exactly a homecoming for the former fifth overall draft pick.
Sunday’s game against the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will have a much different feel. The Bears haven’t played the Raiders in their home stadium since they visited Oakland in 2011. Mack will have his first chance to show those rabid Raiders fans what they’re missing.
Asked Friday if it’s human nature to want to beat his old team, Mack responded, “Would it be human nature to you?”
Mack’s big grin told the story.
“That’s what I’m saying,” he said in response to the laughter in the media room.
Mack doesn’t need to say it directly: He wants to beat the Raiders.
Coach Jon Gruden and the Raiders – who traded Mack to Chicago for a boatload of draft picks in 2018 – did everything they could to make sure it wasn’t Mack who beat them that day in London. Mack had one QB hit and three tackles but otherwise had a quiet game.
“I really don’t care what they was trying to do to me, personally,” said Mack, looking back at that 2019 game. “I just want to go out and put the team in position to win. That’s always been my goal.”
Mack is dealing with nagging foot and rib injuries this week. They were concerning enough to keep him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday, but he returned in a limited capacity Friday. He is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
He hurt his ribs on his fumble recovery against the Lions. He tried to pitch the ball to safety Eddie Jackson during his return (which wound up being flagged for a forward pass), and landed hard as he was tackled.
The Bears named Mack one of their captains this week. The team doesn’t have set captains and, instead, names new captains every week. Despite the injuries, this game means something to Mack, and he’s going to make every effort he can to be on the field.
Teammate Robert Quinn knows that.
“I mean, you get drafted somewhere, and we all expect we’re going to be there forever,” Quinn said. “And then reality sets in. So it was more probably of just a pride thing. I mean, I don’t know who would ever trade him, but you know.”
Mack has been extremely durable, even when facing minor injuries. He hasn’t missed a game since 2018. Although he was on the injury report nearly every week in 2020, he never missed a game.
Mack said he does feel refreshed on Sundays when he takes off extra days during the week, like he did this week.
“In a way, it works like that,” Mack said. “But at the same time, it’s kind of a give and take because you’re still not getting the reps that you need to work with everybody else. It’s a matter of being on the same page, as well. So that’s some positive things that you get when you’re practicing throughout the week, but at the same time, you have to have your mind sharp enough and still be having those conversations.”
Mack has a huge opportunity ahead of him. The Raiders’ offensive line has struggled in the early part of the season. Mack and Quinn – who already sport four and 4.5 sacks, respectively – could be big difference-makers Sunday.