Think about Khalil Mack’s weekend. On Friday night, he was holding out from the Oakland Raiders, a team that clearly wasn’t going to pay him.
On Sunday afternoon he was having a news conference as the newest star of the Chicago Bears, with a $141 million contract in his pocket and a football-crazed city looking at him as a savior. In a week, he’ll be on the field chasing down Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the season opener.
Mack’s football life changed at warp speed. He said he didn’t even have time to say goodbye to his old teammates.
“It’s a whirlwind,” Mack said. “I’ve got to get in here, learn the playbook, figure out my new teammates, figure where their new heads are at and come in here and try to contribute to win. Right away. Right away. There’s really no time to think about it. It’s been quick for me. It’s been real quick.”
The trade was one of the biggest in NFL history, a former defensive player of the year changing teams in his prime. Like everyone else, he couldn’t believe he was changing teams.
“I was definitely shocked. Definitely shocked,” Mack said. “But you don’t have time to be shocked for long. It’s kind of like, ‘Oh word? What time is the flight tonight? I guess I don’t have time to think about it.'”
Khalil Mack was surprised by his new contract
Mack laughed and smiled a lot in his news conference, and why wouldn’t he? He’s with a team that wants him and paid him in a historic way. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s reign as the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history lasted about 24 hours.
And what was his reaction to seeing his contract numbers?
“Whoa! Really? OK. All right,” Mack said, leading to some laughs.
Signed. Sealed. Delivered. pic.twitter.com/2KfFOodqCw
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 2, 2018
But as Mack said repeatedly through his introduction to Chicago, his focus is football. He was clearly happy to get paid, but a big contract wasn’t his ultimate goal.
“That’s one part of it,” Mack said about the contract. “The other side is, I want to be great. I want to be known as one of the best to play the game. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Mack was happy for Aaron Donald
The situation is ripe for pressure. The Bears play in one of the largest markets in the NFL. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1985. They have only made the playoffs once in the past 11 seasons and they have finished last in the NFC North four straight times.
Now all of a sudden they have a new face of the franchise after shipping a couple first-round picks for Mack. He’ll be making $141 million over six years, an unheard of amount for a defensive player just a couple years ago. In fact, it was unheard of before Friday, when Donald signed a $135 million deal.
Mack and Donald were lumped together through the summer, two stars holding out and waiting for a mega-deal. Mack was asked what he thought when he saw the numbers of Donald’s contract.
“Can’t say it in front of my parents,” Mack said with a smile. “I would have said it if they weren’t here.
“I was like, ‘Dog!’ I’ll say that. Like, ‘Wow!’ That was exciting. That was exciting to see somebody who works hard get that. Kudos to him.”
It also meant the end of his Raiders tenure. It was clear the Raiders weren’t going to pay that price.
Mack will be under pressure
Mack was asked when he figured out that his future wouldn’t be the Raiders. He sounded like everything that went down Saturday took a while to sink in.
“Last night. Yesterday sometime,” Mack said. “It was a real sense then, when I got on the plane. It was a whirlwind, but it has been exciting.”
We’ll talk about the trade for a long time. Again, there will be an insane amount of pressure on Mack. His new city loves him now, but he knows that the price the Bears paid in a trade and with his historic contract puts pressure on him.
“Absolutely. I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t,” Mack said. “But based on how hard I work and how hard I play, I want to be able to go out and show why. 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.”
Mack’s presence changes the Bears’ outlook. No longer are they just an intriguing team building around quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. While it will still be tough for Chicago to pass the Packers or Vikings in the NFC North this year, the bar has been raised with one blockbuster trade.
“I want to win. Everybody wants to win. This team wants to win,” Mack said. “Championships are definitely the goal.”
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