Khalil Mack ‘practices like a rookie’ — and it resonates

In the dog days of training camp, Mack has found a reason to be motivated.

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Khalil Mack sits on the sideline Saturday at Soldier Field.

Khalil Mack sits on the sideline Saturday at Soldier Field.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

During a joint practice against the Dolphins last Thursday, Bears linebacker Khalil Mack faced off against Adam Shaheen, a former Bears tight end, in a blocking drill. After Mack beat him, the two jawed. Mack tore Shaheen to the ground. They had to be separated. 

Five days later, Mack tried to claim he didn’t remember the exchange. Then he smiled.

“I like to have fun — and that’s my version of having fun,” he said after practice Tuesday. “That’s my version of fun. We were just enjoying the times.”

Since Mack joined the Bears days before the 2018 season opener, teammates and coaches have tried to describe just how intense he is, whether it’s his hours in the weight room or the extra practice reps he insists on taking. But last week might have been the best example of any: In the dog days of training camp, Mack was the most intense person on the field. 

“Oh, man, that’s Mack. C’mon now, man,” safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I think he only knows one speed, and that’s what makes him great. That’s why playing with a guy like that is just . . . you can never really take advantage of playing with great players like that. Not everybody has the luxury of playing with people like that — for sure, Hall of Fame. 

“He practices like he’s a rookie — like it’s Year 1 or Year 2 for him. That’s a testament to the type of person he is, type of leader he is, type of player he is. And that’s why the defense feeds off him.”

Entering his eighth season, Mack, 30, needs some better stats. He had 36 sacks in his final three seasons with the Raiders but 30 in his first three seasons with the Bears. And he has yet to win a playoff game after the

Bears made him the richest defensive player in NFL history.

But he remains what Bears coaches call a “multiplier” — someone who makes his teammates better with his play and work ethic. He’s “special for a reason — because he doesn’t get complacent,” coach Matt Nagy said. 

On a hot backfield in August, that resonates with his teammates.

“If Mack can go 100%, why can’t anyone else on the defense?” Gipson said. “You have a guy like that that’s gonna go hard every down, every play. Who is anybody else on the defense to take a play off?

“It doesn’t work that way — not in the NFL. Having guys like that gets us ready. And we feed off of him. And we go from there.” 

Defensive lineman Angelo Blackson had never met Mack before signing with the Bears in March.

“The guy is a beast,” Blackson said. “Watching him go out and practice and perform, it definitely wears off on you. And it lets you know how you need

to work.”

Practice is where Mack will do the majority of his work the next 3½ weeks. He played nine snaps in the first preseason game, a number that should rise Saturday. But it would be no surprise if he’s one of the few Bears veterans to sit out the final exhibition.

Mack insists that keeping his motor up during yet another training camp is no difficult feat.

“I mean, it’s not hard when you love the game, when you want to come out and get better every day,” he said. “That’s just a reminder to the guys on the defensive side of the ball that if you’re not getting better, then you’re getting worse. And just taking advantage of the opportunity — because it’s another day to get better.”

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