LAKE FOREST – When he got his silver and black jersey on NFL Draft Night 2014, he didn’t envision having another one for as long as he’d play in the league.
“That’s the expectation when you get drafted to a team,” said Khalil Mack, who was selected by the Raiders with the fifth overall pick. “You want to be there for the long haul and bring championships and all those good things.”
It didn’t work out like that, even after a stellar first four seasons in Oakland, where the linebacker proved he was one of the best defenders in the entire NFL. Not even three Pro Bowl and two All-Pro first-team selections, along with the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, were enough to take out the business side of the game.
Before the 2018 season, with the Raiders not interested in a contract re-negotiation, Mack was sent to Chicago, where a new six-year, $141 million contract started a new era of his career.
“You could say it was disappointing, man, but it’s the nature of the business,” Mack said of his leaving Oakland. “You’ve got to understand that, first and foremost. Let everything take care of itself. You only could control what you could control. But when it comes to football, I love the game of football.”
He’ll especially love it this weekend in London, when Mack takes the field against his former team for the first time at noon Chicago time Sunday. Nothing has changed for Mack since he left Oakland, and so far this year he’s looking like his usual All-Pro self, collecting 4 1/2 sacks with four forced fumbles in the first four games.
Ideally, he’d be doing that with the Raiders, but business got in the way, so is this the opportunity to show his former team what they lost? Well, Mack isn’t about to put too much into that, choosing against making this a game about vengeance with his former employer.
“You can’t play this game with too much emotion, man. Ultimately, I try to stay focused on the task at hand, understanding the situation, understanding what they’ll be thinking on the field,” said Mack. “Ultimately, I’m going to go out there and do what I do, and that’s play football, and love the game that I play.”
So does he have to intentionally avoid getting emotional about this game?
“Absolutely. There’s feelings that you suppress,” Mack said when asked that question. “But also, it’s no big deal to me, man. I love the Bears, and we’re gonna go out and try to get this win.”
The Bears will be favored to do so against the Raiders, who enter the contest at 2-2 on the season after a surprise win against the Colts last Sunday. Mack will be facing old friends, including Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, whom he’d hoped to build a championship team with just a few years back.
But instead of creating more hype than is already going around for this match-up against his former team, Mack’s going to try to put emotion out of it.
“You could talk all day, man. I’m not a talker, man. I just want to go out and show, like you said, and I’m gonna let that be that,” Mack said.
Most likely, those wearing the silver and black are afraid he’ll do just that on Sunday.