Bears LB Khalil Mack on facing former team Raiders: ‘I don’t care what they do… I’ll be ready for it’

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This week the Raiders welcome a familiar face to Las Vegas. Khalil Mack comes to Las Vegas to face off against the team that selected him at fifth overall in the 2014 draft only to trade him away rather than give him a second contract.

With Mack not practicing the first two days this week, and returning limited on Friday, he is officially listed as questionable with ribs and foot injuries. But he assured everyone that he will be there and that he will not be limited.

“I’m going to be out there,” Mack said Friday. “If I’m out there, I’m 100%.”

It’s quite clear this is a game Mack would not miss for the world.

Many times former players downplay the significance of playing the team that let them go — there were five such players on the Raiders when they faced the Chargers last week. But Mack wasn’t about to lie that this game means more to him, suggesting, when asked, that it’s only “human nature” to want to play well against his former team. He also is looking forward to seeing the fanbase that so rabidly cheered for him for four years in Silver & Black.

“It’s different in a sense,” Mack said of heading to face the Raiders in their house as an opponent. “Because you understand the fanbase for what it means to me especially. So, it’s going to be fun to get a chance to play in front of the Raider Nation out there.”

I find it interesting to note that he still refers to Raiders fans as Raider Nation. Suggesting there is still fondness and respect for Raiders fans.

This isn’t the first time Mack has faced his former team. But last time it was on another continent. The game was in London, so it didn’t have the same feel as it will have in the Raiders home stadium.

It was clear to Mack that in that game John Gruden set out to ensure the elite pass rusher he traded away didn’t beat him. Not only did Gruden win that battle, but he accomplished the goal of winning the war, as the Raiders won the game.

“Yeah, it’s obviously something that you look at when you study the film and understand what they wanted to do and the message they wanted to send,” Mack said of the 2019 game. “And, so it’s our job to know what type of team we’re going against and knowing the attitude of the head coach that’s over there and understand who we’re about to face.”

Mack added; “I don’t care what they do, I just know that I’ll be ready for it.”

If there is any ill will against his former team, it’s with the head coach, not his former teammates. Mack still talks regularly with Derek Carr who was selected in that same 2014 class as Mack. Though, there have been no conversations this week for obvious reasons.

Mack had some kind words for his former Raiders draft classmate.

“I see a lot of growth. Especially when they’re sending a lot of people at him,” Mack said of Carr. “He gets the ball out and he’s hitting his targets at a very high rate. These guys got a lot of speed and they can catch the ball in stride and take over. So, it’s going to be a good challenge for us this week.”

Unfortunately for Carr, for Mack to beat his former head coach and for the Bears to win, it means Mack will be hunting for his friend with reckless abandon. Mack has four sacks over the past three games and the Bears have won two of those games.

It looks like Gruden has moved rookie Alex Leatherwood to guard and inserted Brandon Parker at right tackle trying to help prepare for facing Mack. Hard to imagine Parker being worse than Leatherwood has been. Either way, Carr will need to have his head on a swivel.

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