In case you are unaware, the Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears are playing this Sunday. The teams are playing in London, though that’s not of much consequence.
The real story of the game is Khalil Mack and Jon Gruden and the relationship - or lack of relationship as the case may be - between the two.
‘I’m not going to get into all the drama’
Speaking to media via conference call from London on Wednesday, Gruden was asked about Mack, the All-Pro pass-rusher he traded from Oakland to Chicago last year on the eve of the regular season.
The Raiders did get a sizable return - two first-round draft picks and two later-round picks - but thus far haven’t come close to replacing Mack’s production on the field.
Gruden, who faced many questions about the trade last year, still was in no mood to discuss it on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to get into all the drama,” he said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “We wanted to sign Mack, OK? We didn’t want to trade him.
“I wish him all the best. I’m not re-hashing all the drama. We wanted to have him. We couldn’t make it happen.”
Mack held out during the 2018 offseason and into training camp, hoping to negotiate an extension with the Raiders instead of playing on his fifth-year rookie contract option, which was $13.87 million - and which he’d clearly outplayed. Oakland says it presented an offer and Mack’s side counter-offered, but “we weren’t close,” then-Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said at the time.
‘He’s a great player’
Last year, Mack had 12.5 sacks in 14 games for the Bears. The Raiders as a team had 13.
This year, Mack has 4.5 sacks in 4 games, on pace for a career-high 18. He also has four forced fumbles. Oakland has five team sacks.
Gruden has previously lamented his team’s lack of a pass rush post-Mack.
“Not a lot has changed when I watch Khalil play,” Gruden said. “He’s a great player. They move around, so he’s hard to find at times. They have a lot of other players on defense that are concerning to us also. So he’s a great player, a great effort player certainly, and he’s surrounded on all three levels by talent. And they also have depth. We’re going to have our hands full, that’s for sure.”
He added that Oakland will have to be “as creative as possible” in coming up with ways to try to block Mack.
Mack wants to make Raiders pay
On Tuesday, Mack admitted that he has been looking forward to facing his former team, and that a sense of “vindictiveness” is fueling him.
“Vindictiveness?,” he said. “I like that word. Yeah. I mean, that’s the whole point, man. You can’t play this game with too much emotion, man. Ultimately, I try to stay focused on the task at hand and understanding the situation and understanding what they’re going to be thinking that I feel.
“But ultimately, I’m going to go out there and do what I do. And that’s play football and love the game that I play.”
He won’t talk much on the field, that’s not his style, and said he’s trying to suppress his emotions, “but the other side is to go out and make them pay for it.”
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