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A year after minicamp holdout, Bears’ Khalil Mack ‘all about his teammates’

Exactly one year ago Wednesday, Mack dug in. Frustrated by a stagnant contract negotiation, the star outside linebacker skipped the first day of the Raiders’ mandatory minicamp.

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers
Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack sits on the sideline before last year’s 49ers game.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Exactly one year ago Wednesday, outside linebacker Khalil Mack dug in.

Frustrated by a stagnant contract negotiation, Mack skipped the first day of the Raiders’ mandatory minicamp.

He never would practice for them again. The Raiders traded him to the Bears just before the regular season.

Three hundred sixty-four days and a $141 million contract later, Mack participated in the first of three Bears minicamp practices Tuesday. It was no surprise, given that he and all his teammates already had shown up for all voluntary organized team activities.

‘‘If you just put yourself in his shoes, for him to not show up, that’s a ‘me’ thing,’’ Bears coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘That’s selfish; he’s selfless. He’s all about ‘we’; he’s all about his teammates. It’s easy for him; it’s not hard. He just does it. That’s just who he is. When you’re yourself and you be yourself, you just do it. . . . He’s just doing what he’s supposed to do.’’

Mack said he’s seeing the benefits of a preseason program.

‘‘It’s huge, it’s huge,’’ Mack said. ‘‘When you think about bringing in a new D-coordinator in Chuck Pagano and just wrapping your mind around the defense and getting a deep understanding of what it is they want from us as players.

‘‘And then the team camaraderie is huge. When you’ve got all the guys that are going to be playing on the field together, communicating and understanding the defense together at the same time, it’s a huge confidence boost.’’

Pagano has vowed to keep the Bears’ scheme similar to what it was last season, but the terminology is different. Mack said the time spent together is important because it enables players to do everything from fine-tune coverages to absorb intangibles.

‘‘All-around learning,’’ he said.

He didn’t have that luxury last year, when the Bears acquired him eight days before the start of the season.

‘‘It gives you a lot more time to take it in and get a deeper understanding of why you’re doing this and who’s helping whom and why this helps what,’’ he said. ‘‘Instead of just doing it and trying to do it to the best of your ability on the fly.’’

Mack had 12½ sacks last season, his most since 2015 despite missing two games. He posted his second career pick-six, forced a career-high six fumbles and recovered two more.

Did it hurt him not to take part in offseason practices last year?

‘‘You tell me,’’ he said with trademark swagger. ‘‘I knew I was going to be ready whatever happened. I wanted to be prepared physically more so than anything. Understanding this game on the fly, you can kind of say that, ultimately, you’re going to have the same patterns. You’re going to have some of the same coverages. So, ultimately, it’s going to all kind of be the same, in a sense. Just different words.’’

Someone asked Mack again, and his tone changed a bit.

‘‘Not so much,’’ he said. ‘‘But it could have helped me, having an offseason [program].’’

Mack never has to find out again. He smiled when told about how thrilled Bears matriarch Virginia McCaskey was with the trade. He wants to live up to her lofty expectations.

‘‘That’s amazing; it’s real special,’’ Mack said. ‘‘It’s something I prayed and thanked God about. . . . I know how blessed I am, and I’m so appreciative to have this opportunity.

‘‘But I’ve got to make the most of it, and the most of it would be getting to the big game.’’