LAKE FOREST — Premier pass rusher Khalil Mack would much rather demonstrate how he intends to impact the Bears’ defense than talk about it, and he can’t wait to demonstrate it.
It’s entirely possible the three-time Pro Bowler with 36 ½ sacks in the past three years for the Raiders could be the key piece that gets the Bears back into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. But Mack has little interest in discussing the possibilities.
“You could say a lot of different things, but until I go out there and play, I’m not a big talker,” he said Sunday afternoon when he met the media at Halas Hall a day after the blockbuster trade that brought him to Chicago. “I like to go out and use my actions to speak, and when I get out there and get on the field, you can probably sense what’s going to happen.”
Usually what happens, especially if an offense doesn’t focus on stopping Mack, he makes an impact, not just as a pass rusher but also as a run stopper with range. Bears coach Matt Nagy learned that when he had to face Mack and the Raiders twice a year as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“You talk about who the guys are that you need to game plan around and … obviously he’s one that you do,” Nagy said. “The word that always comes to mind for myself was dominance in what he does.”
Nagy also attests to Mack’s preference for doing rather than saying and his humility.
“He’s not a talker,” Nagy said. “He shows it by his actions, and you see that on tape, and because of that, you create even more respect from the opponents.”
For now, Mack is all about throwing himself into absorbing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme and jelling with his new teammates. The billboards and the over-the-top fan excitement are great.
“But that’s only one side of it, right?” Mack said. “What excites me more is coming in and learning the playbook, getting to know my teammates, and being around the coaching staff and understanding the system. These are the things that excite me even more. I love the game of football. That’s what I’m all about. I want to win, and championships are definitely the goal.”
The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year is already fueling anticipation of a return to the glory days of Bears defense, like the one that formed the backbone of the Super Bowl XX champions. Mack is well versed on his NFL history and is aware of that legendary defense, even though it performed six years before he was born.
“Just pure domination,” Mack said, recalling the ’85 Bears. “That’s what I want to be a part of here -- but not basing it on the potential. Going out and actually doing it is what I’m all about.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Mack isn’t shy about accepting the pressure that comes with being the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, after agreeing to terms with the Bears on a six-year extension that will pay him $141 million and included $60 million guaranteed at signing and $90 million guaranteed overall.
“I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t (pressure),” he said. “But just based on how hard I worked, and how hard I play, I want to be able to go out and show why (I’m worth it), and that’s just me. I’ve always thought of myself as the best defensive player in the league, and I want to play like the best defensive player in the league. I want to be the best at what I do, and that’s just me. That’s what comes with Mack. Good response?”
Most victory-starved Bears fans would say, “Perfect,” and Mack’s response was music to the ears of Bears G.M. Ryan Pace, who deviated from his stated goal of building through the draft by giving up two first-round picks for the 27-year-old Mack. But, as Pace said, this was a special situation.
“It’s his youth, the position he plays and it’s the dynamic player that he is,” Pace said. “It’s a rare moment that this type of player becomes available, and when that happens, (it’s) going in and getting that guy.”