LAKE FOREST – Perhaps this would have had a different feel had the franchise made the decision not to move from California to Nevada after the 2019 season.
Oakland, after all, is where Khalil Mack played all of his football with the Raiders from 2014 through 2017, endearing himself to fans of the “Raider Nation” while also becoming one of the best defenders in the National Football League.
Sunday will be the first time that the outside linebacker faces the Raiders in a home game with the Bears since the now-famous Labor Day weekend trade in 2018 that brought him to Chicago. But it won’t be in Oakland where he’ll face them but rather the expansive Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the new home of the team.
“It’s different, in a sense, because you understand the fan base and what it means to me, especially,” said Mack when asked about facing the Raiders in Las Vegas. “It’s gonna be fun to get a chance to play in front of those ‘Raider Nation’ out there.”
Mack technically did that in 2019 when the team was still in California, but the NFL moved the game from Oakland to London before the season. In that Week 5 game against the Raiders he had three tackles and fumble recovery, but the Bears lost 24-21 in what would end up being a four-game losing skid.
“It’s obviously something that you look at when you study the film and understand what they wanted to do and the message they wanted to send,” said Mack when asked about reflecting on the last match-up with his old team. “It’s our job to know what type of team we’re going against and knowing the attitude that the head coach that’s over there and understanding who we’re about to face.”
In 2019, Jon Gruden did what he could to make sure that Mack wasn’t the one to beat the Raiders that day and a similar strategy could be in place for Sunday. So will the linebacker’s motivation be similar to show his old team what they gave away?
At his Friday news conference, Mack was asked if it’s human nature to want to do well against the team that traded him.
“Would it be human nature for you?” Mack asked back.
“Yeah, absolutely,” answered the reporter.
“That’s what I’m saying, yeah,” responded Mack as he gets ready to face the Raiders for a second time.