Shortly after the Raiders traded Khalil Mack to the Bears, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden couched the decision to make the move as a financial one.
In an interview with Lisa Salters of ESPN, Gruden took a different approach to explaining why Mack was playing for the Bears on Sunday night instead of playing for the Raiders against the Rams on Monday night.
“Obviously, Khalil Mack didn’t want to play here,” Gruden said. “That’s what’s being missed here. He was under contract, Lisa. He was under contract. He never showed up for an OTA, never showed up for a training camp and it was obvious he wasn’t going to show up for the season. Don’t forget that. We have to get ready to play and I want players that want to be here, that want to help us put this thing back in high gear.”
One can’t argue with Gruden about Mack not being at OTAs, which are voluntary activities players skip for myriad reasons, or training camp. One can wonder how those fairly common activities related to contract negotiations correlate to an obvious lack of desire to play for the Raiders unless Gruden simply means the lack of desire to play for the Raiders for whatever amount of money the Raiders decide he should accept.
The Rams took a different approach with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who missed OTAs and camp last year and this year before signing a new deal with the team that briefly set a financial standard that Mack surpassed with his Bears deal. His presence on the L.A. defense and Mack’s absence from the Oakland defense will be two of the things to watch when the teams close out Week One.