Brad Biggs: Khalil Mack won’t blame injuries for what happened in 2020. But as the edge rusher prepares for his 8th season, it’s on the Chicago Bears to bring out his best.

A knee, a back, an ankle, the back again and a shoulder were all ailments that landed Khalil Mack on the injury report last season.

The Chicago Bears outside linebacker was designated as questionable for 10 of the 16 regular-season games but didn’t miss one on his way to leading the defense with nine sacks, 6½ which came in the first eight games.

Mack, who seldom was available to media during the 2020 season, never blamed injuries but after the season general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy indicated the shoulder issue was plaguing the six-time Pro Bowl selection late in the season.

Predictably, Mack didn’t want to dwell on the physical issues he played through a year ago when he spoke Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall following the first training camp practice.

“I mean, that’s the whole point,” Mack said. “I’m out there, I’m 100%. I’m not blaming anything on anything, you know what I’m saying? When I’m out there, I’m doing whatever I can to help the team win. That’s ultimately the kind of guy you’ve got with me.”

Was the shoulder issue, which first popped on the injury report before the Dec. 13 meeting with the Houston Texans the worst?

“For the most part,” he acknowledged. “It is what it is. But I (don’t) want to keep talking about (it) as if it had too much of an affect. Everybody in the building knows what it was.”

Few outside the building know and the reality is Mack remained a marked man by opponents all season. His best game came in the most impressive win of the season when the Bears defeated the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-19 in Week 5. Mack had three QB hits, two sacks of Tom Brady and one pass deflection.

Those are the kind of momentum-shifting plays the Bears are seeking more — many more — of in 2021, and that discussion begins with the team’s highest-paid player. Sack production is hardly the only measuring stick for production when it comes to Mack. Thirteen players had more but Pro Football Focus still ranked him as the league’s top edge defender in its postseason player ratings.

Even so, the defense as a whole slumped during the second half of the season and everyone involved knows the Bears need to be better to improve on consecutive 8-8 records. That raises the question of how the team can unlock more splash plays for Mack or how he can help elevate the play of those around him.

“He’s going to get doubled and tripled,” Nagy said. “How do we help alleviate that with him so that when he does get singled he can have more chances to win?”

Figure that probably was one of the big assignments for first-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai this offseason, designing ways to unleash Mack within the framework of the system. With Desai’s history working under former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whom Mack previously dubbed the “Evil Genius,” here are three possibilities:

— More multiple front defenses. In passing situations, the Bears can have a four-man front but tilt it with three defenders to one side and a backside defensive end. Mack can be on the three-man side and in this situation the Bears can manipulate protection, forcing the offense to slide three linemen to that side for 3-on-3 or man-to-man rush for Mack. Off of that, the Bears can run twists to get Mack inside. Fangio used a five-man front in the past, particularly against the Los Angeles Rams, and this creates one-on-one blocking and a multitude of games the defense could run upfront. If the offense slides the running back to Mack’s side, Desai can counter by moving him around.

— Line up Mack as a standup three-technique defensive tackle or go to a five-man front and line him up as a standup nose. Both guards will be occupied and the center has to deal with Mack’s speed, power and lateral ability.

— Walk up inside linebackers in the A gap. Now, they’re counted in protection and the Bears can create situations that should be in their favor on passing downs.

Mack still is going to be double-teamed with regularity and the Bears can’t design action for him on every passing down, but there are creative ways to play to the strength of their personnel. The San Francisco 49ers were fantastic at manipulating matchups under former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, now the New York Jets coach. They had a wealth of talent with Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead and Saleh had success with tilted fronts.

It’s a numbers game and the Bears have to do a better job of winning that Xs-and-Os battle to put Mack in position to shine more consistently as a 30-year-old in the prime of his career.

The Bears know they have a special talent and maximizing his ability when he has shown that he will play through injuries is paramount, especially if this unit is going to rediscover its nasty edge. New outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey doesn’t need to teach Mack how to defeat an offensive tackle. But he can help with the little things, and described potentially making film study more efficient during the week as he diagnoses the opposing offense.

“He’s an interesting guy because he’s so intrinsically motivated to be the very best,” Shuey said. “So for me, it’s to be a support for that, to challenge him, he sets the stamp — the crazy thing is those guys that are great and elite, they typically are going to be their own toughest critic.

“I’ve just got to make sure that I help him detail and stay on the course on the daily grind of things because he’s going to put in the work.”

Mack said he always falls back on a message imparted to him by Charles Woodson, the Hall of Fame defensive back who was finishing his career in Oakland when Mack broke into the league.

“You cannot waste time,” Woodson said. “This (stuff) is very valuable.”

“There’s always a sense of urgency,” Mack said. “Especially from our standpoint. You don’t get too many years in the NFL, too many chances to win ballgames and too many chances to get to the playoffs and go all the way.

“I understand that now going into Year 8 and only been in the playoffs three times so far and losing in the first round every one of them. (Stuff) is very valuable. Time is of the essence.”