Khalil Mack isn’t known for saying a lot. Yet when he speaks, his words always seem to have a hidden power behind them. One thing was clear during his first press conference of training camp. He’s irritated. Not with the media. More with himself and how the defense performed last season. Nobody would say he played badly. Far from it. He had 9.5 sacks, plenty of pressures, and was one of the best outside linebackers in the league against the run.



Yet those numbers aren’t up to his standards. Not somebody accustomed to dominating his opponents every single week. It also didn’t help that the defense slipped out of the top 10 for the first time since 2016. Combine that with another early playoff exit? It’s easy to understand why Mack isn’t happy. Reality is creeping up on him fast. At 30-years old, his window in the NFL won’t stay open forever. He wants to win a championship. That is why when asked if the defensive slide down the stretch last season was about players or scheme, he didn’t want to hear it.

Even using some colorful language in the process.

“That sounds like excuses. But for me personally, I know I can play better. So ultimately, what I can control is what I can control….. But what you bring to the table, we’ve got to bring it all together and be what we know we can be — and that’s a great defense.

Just talking about it is not something I’m accustomed to. I’m an action guy. So I’m not going to say shit. I’ll show you better than I can tell you.”

Mack isn’t under any illusions. The Bears pass rush underperformed last year. He wasn’t the primary issue. Others like Robert Quinn and even Akiem Hicks didn’t have anywhere close to their customary production. While people can talk about pressures and all that, he understands they all get paid to sack the quarterback. So when asked what the defense can do to solve this problem, Mack was as simplistic as he was blunt.

Get to the damn quarterback. That’s what we got paid to do, coming in and affecting the game by getting to the quarterback and creating turnovers and short fields for the offense. Ultimately, that’s the goal.

Of course, we’re not satisfied with the result last year. So there’s work to be done. Enough talking. I don’t do that. I don’t like to talk about it.”

He wasn’t the only one being frank. Quinn himself fully admitted that 2020 was a bad year for him. A season where he managed just two sacks. The lowest of his career. It’s led to a lot of people questioning whether this aging group is capable of providing the necessary pressure to overcome the slew of top quarterbacks they’ll see this season.

Khalil Mack isn’t about excuses this year

Since last season he has taken on a greater role as a locker room leader. While his play did plenty to show his value, he’s come to realize his voice can do a lot to help too. So him coming out and saying stuff like this in a public setting? That is going to resonate in the locker room. Teammates are going to take that as a message. Injuries? Scheme? Other issues? He doesn’t want to hear it. Everybody needs to do their job.

Head coach Matt Nagy echoed the same sentiment. He expects every player on the team to go 100 mph in practice. To give everything they have. If there is a sense somebody isn’t doing that? They’ll find themselves on the bench in a hurry. Khalil Mack isn’t going to be one of those guys. It sounds like he is looking upon 2021 as if he has something to prove.

Both to himself and to the doubters.

A motivated Mack is a great thing for this defense. So is the return of Eddie Goldman, somebody who should resume eating up double teams in the middle of the defensive line. That in turn will make like easier for the pass rushers. As always, it will come down to health. Can Mack and Quinn make it through the season without any nagging injuries? All Bears fans can do is wait, watch, and hold their breath.

SOURCE© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Erik Lambert
Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.