LONDON – Khalil Mack doesn’t say much. The Chicago Bears All-Pro edge rusher frequently dodges reporters, and mumbles platitudes through interviews he’s obligated to do.
He never, ever, ever fuels an opponent with trash talk, even when he knows deep down he’s superior.
But Mack can’t hide his feelings about Sunday’s game against his former team.
Mack met the media Tuesday and, when asked if there was a sense of "vindictiveness" against the Raiders, he didn't mince words.
“Vindictiveness? I like that word,” Mack said, via the Chicago Tribune. “You can’t play this game with too much emotion. Ultimately, I try to stay focused on the task at hand, understanding the situation.
“Absolutely there’s feelings that you suppress, but it’s also no big deal to me. I’m here. I love the Bears. We’re gonna go out and try to get this win.”
Mack knows he has to keep his emotions in check in order to come out on top, but he'd be lying if he said there wasn't any extra motivation.
“Yeah, man. You can’t tell?” he said. “You could say I’m suppressing the emotional side, but the other side is to go out and make them pay for it.”
This is a big one for all involved. Mack and the Raiders have a history.
We all know it well.
The former NFL defensive player of the year held out of last year’s preseason as he looked for a new record-setting contract the Raiders weren’t willing to give, prompting Jon Gruden to trade him to Chicago for a compensation package that included two first-round picks.
The Bears promptly gave Mack a market-resetting contract and made a beeline for the playoffs. The Raiders started a massive rebuild, shipping off Amari Cooper later in the year for another first-round pick in an essentially lost season.
The trade also ended Jon Gruden’s honeymoon. Fans so excited the famous coach was back in silver and black raised a Chucky-style eyebrow at that move. It was warranted. Trading a generational talent in his prime is cause for criticism.
Mack’s agent kept his client separated from the team, meaning Gruden had no contact except a phone call with the star player before he was dealt. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had a chance encounter with Mack at a restaurant, but that was about it for interaction with a new coaching staff formed in Jan. 2018.
Gruden made some comments about Mack last year, but he clearly is over the controversial topic and tries to avoid it at all costs.
Gruden is ready to move on, but the Mack storyline will get dredged this week in London. Oh, and it’s no coincidence that the Raiders are playing this home game abroad. Seeing Mack sack good friend Derek Carr at Oakland Coliseum would’ve simply been too much.
Let’s fully evaluate this trade right now. The Raiders got Josh Jacobs out of the trade, with another first-rounder on the way next year. Let’s not evaluate it based upon Mack’s sack total versus the entire Raiders team.
Context is required here, considering how far away the Raiders were from being competitive and Gruden’s realization they had to tear the whole thing down and start over. He didn’t want to do that saddled with hefty sums earmarked for Mack and Carr.
We can debate whether Gruden was right or wrong to trade Mack. That certainly was done after the transaction, before going relatively quiet in 2019. They’ll pick back up this week, with Mack vs. the team/coach that traded him dominating headlines surrounding this game.