Chicago Bears OLB Khalil Mack vows to use disappointing 2019 as fuel for offseason


Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack spent the last Super Bowl working out in the gym.

He’ll have plenty of free time during the title game this season, too.

Two days before the end of a Bears season that will finish at best .500, Mack vowed Friday to channel his disappointment into fuel again this offseason.

‘‘I can’t really explain how I’m going to use it,’’ he said Friday. ‘‘But I’ll use it.’’

The highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, Mack isn’t the kind of player to take a few weeks to himself to reset and recharge. He takes pride in the work he puts in during the offseason.

‘‘My therapy is being part of the grind,’’ he said. ‘‘My grind is really not going to stop this year. Not going to take too many breaks. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, in that sense.’’

Mack shouldn’t be short of motivation. He has had only four sacks since the end of September, and his 8½ sacks this season are his fewest since he had four as a rookie in 2014. He totaled 49 between 2015 and 2018, an average of 12.25 per season.

Mack’s 14 quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss are also his fewest since his rookie season. Still, he was named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl this month, an honor he had no stomach to discuss last week.

Mack’s offseason evaluation of the Bears’ season begins with an examination of his own play.

‘‘I’m going to start with myself,’’ he said. ‘‘Look at the film, like I always do after every season, and work on the things I need to work on. And get ready for the next one.’’

NFL players voted Mack the third-best player in the league entering the season. No matter how often his coaches tried to explain away his underwhelming statistics, blaming it on double- and triple-teams or a lack of interior pass rush with defensive lineman Akiem Hicks sidelined for three-quarters of the season, Mack’s season has been a disappointment. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was talking about outside linebacker Leonard Floyd’s low sack total when he lumped Mack in the same category. The sentence would have seemed unthinkable before the season began.

‘‘Does he have the sack numbers that we all wanted? No,’’ Pagano said. ‘‘Does Khalil have ’em? No.’’

The game Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium features exactly zero postseason stakes. The Vikings are locked into the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs, win or lose. Finding the juice to play one more game might prove difficult for the Bears, though coach Matt Nagy has spent all week trying to ensure his players are engaged.

Mack, who has reached the playoffs twice in his career, acknowledged the challenge.

‘‘It’s hard, in a way,’’ Mack said. ‘‘But I love playing the game.’’

Mack famously beat a triple-team against the Vikings in a Week 4 victory at Soldier Field. He might see another one Sunday.

‘‘I don’t care what they do,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s about us.’’

The Bears have little reason to expose Mack to the extended violence of a meaningless game. But if they let him play, Mack has a chance to wreck the game against Vikings backups. He could inflate his sack total, too.

Mack was asked Friday whether reaching double-digit sacks mattered to him. His answer was yes and no.

‘‘I mean, absolutely, it means something,’’ he said. ‘‘But at the same time, it’s a whole other mindset that I’m in right now at this stage in my career, as far as wanting to play in the playoffs and get to the championship.’’

In that sense, the 2020 season starts Monday.


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