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Raiders’ Jon Gruden on Khalil Mack: ‘We didn’t want to trade him’

“I’m not rehashing all the drama,” Gruden said. “We wanted to have him. We couldn’t make it happen.”

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings
Jon Gruden watches the Raiders play the Vikings.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Raiders coach Jon Gruden was in no mood to rehash the team’s trade of outside linebacker Khalil Mack on Wednesday morning, even as Oakland prepares for a reunion with him Sunday in London.

Still, he claimed that the franchise wanted to keep Mack all along.

“I’m not going to get into all the drama,” Gruden said in a teleconference with Chicago reporters after the Raiders’ practice in London. “We wanted to sign Mack, OK? We didn’t want to trade him.

“I wish him the best. I’m not rehashing all the drama. We wanted to have him. We couldn’t make it happen.”

Mack held out last preseason and hoped to negotiate a new contract rather than play for a fifth-year option worth $13.87 million. Eight days before the start of the 2018 season, the Raiders traded Mack — along with a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2020 — for first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a sixth-rounder in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2020.

The Raiders used the first of the two first-round selections on Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, whose 307 rushing yards are a franchise record through the first four games of a player’s career.

“We were able to get a couple of draft picks,” Gruden said. “Josh Jacobs is playing well for us, and we were able to sign some players in free agency, and we’re going to continue to build our team. Certainly wish Mack the best.”

He said Mack’s game is the same as it was in Oakland.

“They move around, so he’s hard to find at times,” Gruden said. “They have a lot of other players on defense that are concerning to us, also.

“So he’s a great player, a great effort player certainly, and he’s surrounded on all three levels by talent. And they also have depth. We’re going to have our hands full, that’s for sure.”

The Raiders will have to be “as creative as possible” when scheming ways to block Mack, Gruden said.

“Hopefully, [offensive tackles] Trent Brown and Kolton Miller are up to a great challenge,” Gruden said. “We’re not going to underestimate [outside linebacker Leonard] Floyd, either, that’s for sure. We’re not going to underestimate any of these guys. I think [Aaron] Lynch comes in and gives them a rest.

“They have four good rushers and allow him to be at his best when he’s on the grass. It will be a challenge.”

After four questions about Mack, Gruden then made it clear to reporters that he was done answering such queries.

Mack said Tuesday that he was trying to “suppress the emotional side” of the reunion with the Raiders.

“But the other side,” he said, “is to go out and make them pay for it.”

He has made everyone else pay this season — Mack has 4½ sacks and four forced fumbles already. His 12½ sacks last year were the most for any Bear not named Richard Dent.

“I’m pretty sure he’s probably salivating to go after the Oakland Raiders,” Lynch said. “But I think he salivates, like all of us, to go after everybody else, as well.

“I’m just expecting a couple of forced fumbles this game.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hopes not. Carr told reporters in London on Wednesday that he’ll be friends with Mack for life. It hurt him to lose Mack, a Hall of Fame-caliber player in his estimation.

But he argued — his opinion clouded by hope — that the Raiders didn’t lose the trade.

“I think both teams have won the trade,” Carr said. “I think if you can get Khalil Mack on your team, you’re winning. I think if you can get Josh Jacobs on your team, you’re winning.”