Bears star Khalil Mack wants to make Raiders 'pay' for trading him

Bears star Khalil Mack wants to make Raiders 'pay' for trading him

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.

[RELATED: Mack has been 'looking forward' to facing Raiders]

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.

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday, and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season.

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter.

However, it's currently unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases, and the cities won't be overwhelmed.

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that his league would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.