Chicago Bears buzz over Mack at high level among new teammates

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Newly acquired Chicago Bears player Khalil Mack speaks with the media during an NFL football news conference Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. (Tim Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

    Newly acquired Chicago Bears player Khalil Mack speaks with the media during an NFL football news conference Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. (Tim Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

  • Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, left, speaks to the media as general manager Ryan Pace looks on during an NFL football news conference Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. (Tim Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

    Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, left, speaks to the media as general manager Ryan Pace looks on during an NFL football news conference Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. (Tim Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

 
 
Updated 9/4/2018 6:15 AM

Even his new Chicago Bears teammates and coach Matt Nagy are eager to see what three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack can do, and Nagy admits it would be difficult to not play him in Sunday night's season opener against the Packers at Green Bay.

"Most of us all know what he can do, and so it's the anticipation of being able to see it, and then the happiness of knowing that he's doing it for your team," Nagy said.

 

"So we'll see how it goes, but when he's out there, I can promise you this, when he's going, he's going to give it everything he has. And we just have to figure out how much."

Mack did not participate in the Oakland Raiders' training camp or any of their preseason games as he sought the six-year, $141-million contract extension the Bears were happy to provide, along with the two first-round draft picks it required to pry him away from Jon Gruden's team.

Mack has been working out on his own, and Nagy said he looks to be in excellent shape, but his availability for Week 1 will depend on how he looks physically in practices this week, which began Monday morning inside the Walter Payton Center.

"We want to be able to see some conditioning when he's out there, (if) he's able to really give 100 percent of what he can do," Nagy said. "That's going to be just communication between him, myself, (defensive coordinator) Vic (Fangio) and our trainers on a day-to-day basis. And there aren't many days. We know time is of the essence. We've got to have a good, solid plan with that balance of not doing too much, but pushing him to where we get him ready."

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Mack's new teammates also are excited to see what kind of a difference the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year will make, especially cornerback Prince Amukamara.

Amukamara, who has seven interceptions in seven seasons, got some blowback when he mentioned in the off-season a goal of getting 10 picks this year. It wasn't a prediction, just a goal, but some took it the wrong way.

"Just joking, and this is a disclaimer, but those 10 picks are looking a little bit more promising," Amukamara said. "I would say the clock in the quarterback's head I'm sure is going to be a lot shorter.

"I can't sugarcoat it, but what Mack does to our defense brings a whole new dynamic. It really just shows that management and this organization, we're going for it, and you've got to appreciate aggressiveness like this."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks led the Bears with 8 sacks last year, but he won't see as many double-teams this year, playing alongside Mack, who has piled up 36 sacks over the past three seasons.

"It's nice to have such a prolific rusher outside me," Hicks said. "He's the type of player that makes everybody's job easier, just because he's such a threat. He makes this defense just a little bit more ferocious -- shoot, a lot more ferocious."

Offensive left tackle Charles Leno says he will get better by trying to block Mack in practice because the newest Bears defender possesses all the tools of an impact pass rusher.

"Great competition," Leno said. "Like I say all the time, 'Iron sharpens iron.' I love everything about it. He has every tool you need to be a great rusher -- speed, power, length, athleticism, all of it."

Even though Mack isn't yet ready to go full speed for an entire practice, he was good enough Monday to get a reaction from offensive right tackle Bobby Massie.

"Our right tackle, (on Mack's) second play, turned around and gave me the eyes when he rushed him," Nagy said. "That's good to see. It helps make our (defensive) guys better. On the offensive line, it makes them better, as well."

• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.

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