CHICAGO — Sweat dripping down his massive arms as he worked out on a Peloton machine, Khalil Mack had his sights set on big things.
He's looking to bounce back after his production dropped. And so are the Chicago Bears after a disappointing season.
“I wasn’t good enough,” Mack said Saturday in his first public comments since last season. "Wasn’t good enough at all. Understanding that, there are different intangibles that came with it. I don’t make any excuses. I just rise to the occasion and I am getting ready for this one. It’s gonna be a fun one, man, I can’t wait."
The Bears are trying to regroup after going 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years. It was far from what they envisioned coming off a 12-4 season and NFC North championship in 2018.
Their offence ranked among the NFL's worst. Their top 10 defence wasn't quite as dominant, and Mack experienced a down year by his lofty standards with 8 1/2 sacks. The three-time All-Pro had four straight seasons in double digits after recording four as a rookie with Oakland in 2014.
Mack looked as if he was on his way to keeping that streak going with 4 1/2 sacks, as well as four forced fumbles, through the first four games. But his production tailed off after that. If he was hurt, well, he wasn't about to pin it on an injury.
“It was a lot of factors, man,” said Mack, who played in all 16 games. “Playing this game, you deal with all types of stuff and I’m not one to make excuses, but I am going to make sure I am out there with my brothers giving it my all every week and that’s what you all saw. So, not to get into details but, man, we’re ready this year. We’re ready. We’re ready for it all.”
Mack still was disruptive, drawing double and triple teams. But he didn't have the help he needed on the edge.
Leonard Floyd never really developed into the pass rushing threat the Bears hoped he would become when they drafted him with the No. 9 pick in 2016. He had just three sacks last season and was cut in March.
The Bears signed Robert Quinn to a $70 million contract, hoping he can take some of the load off Mack on the edge. The former All-Pro had 11 1/2 sacks with Dallas last season, and the Bears are counting on him to help lift a defence that slipped a little in 2018. Chicago went from ranking third in yards in 2018 to eighth last season and was fourth in scoring defence after leading the league.
“I know it’s just gonna be fun being out there with a guy that’s going 110 miles per hour on the other side, and I can’t wait,” Mack said. "I don’t know what it’s gonna bring, but I know it’s gonna be fun. And I can’t wait.”
Mack said he doesn't “see a ceiling” for the defence . And he doesn't feel as if he has something to prove.
“I know myself,” he said. "I know what I’m capable of. And this is gonna be fun, man. I can’t wait to get out there with my teammates and make plays and give oohs and ahhs to the TV crowd. And all that that brings, it brings me joy, man. I love this game. It’s fun. I don’t stress over this game. But I love it and I just can’t wait to get out there with my guys.”
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Andrew Seligman, The Associated Press