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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 11, 2018 1:00 am


Bears' new defensive star still adjusting

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CHICAGO – After a whirlwind month, Khalil Mack needed the chance to exhale.

What a September it had been. Traded to the Bears on the first day of the month, Mack followed by giving his new team and his new city an exhilarating four-week production surge. Five sacks. An interception returned for a touchdown. NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors. A big hand in lifting the Bears to the top of the NFC North standings.

Yet with so much going on away from football – a transition to Chicago, a new home purchase, the need to get his personal life settled – Mack welcomed the Bears' Week 5 bye as much as any player.

“It was real good, man,” Mack said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “That's a good feeling, knowing that I can finally get everything situated and that I had the time to get things situated.

“It was cool.”

So, some furniture shopping and the like?

“Yeah, something like that, man,” Mack said with a wide grin. “Had to stop at Target. Home Goods. Did a little shopping here and there.”

Still, with those jaunts into the public, Mack is also starting to gain a better understanding of just how big of a deal he is as the star player in a major market of a football-crazed city that is suddenly giddy over the Bears' surprising resurgence. Remember, Mack played his college ball at Buffalo and spent his first four NFL seasons in Oakland.

Indeed, this is different.

“I didn't know Chicago was so aggressive,” Mack said. “It's real aggressive out here. Everybody kind of recognizes you out here. But it's a good feeling.”

Mack acknowledged that he could offer “a lot of different examples” of how his fame in a new city brought out an aggressive side in excited fans. But he declined to divulge specifics.

“Not right now,” he said with a smile. “It's just everywhere. That's the difference everywhere. No matter when I'm at. Home Goods, it could be a mother of two and she'll be a fan and it's like random as hell to me.”

Mack is embracing all that comes with his new perch even as he acknowledges the new adjustments for him and his family. He's also excited to be a part of a first-place team and a special defense that returned to work this week with a laser focus on improving to 4-1.

With a full week off after a 48-10 destruction of the Buccaneers, Mack has seen his new team return to Lake Forest this week with the right edge.

“I knew Monday was going to tell me a lot,” he said. “And yeah, Monday proved that we're a mature team. Guys didn't just go off and lay down the whole time. It was good to see.”

Extra points

Jacksonville ruled out running back Leonard Fournette for its game at Dallas. It will be the fourth game Fournette has missed this season. Coach Doug Marrone says Fournette (hamstring), left tackle Josh Wells (groin) and cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) will miss Sunday's road game. ... Detroit acquired cornerback Lenzy Pipkins via waivers from Indianapolis and released linebacker Marquis Flowers. ... New York Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers briefly returned to the team's facility, and coach Todd Bowles says there's a “small chance” he coaches against Indianapolis on Sunday. Rodgers is dealing with what Bowles characterized last week as a “serious” illness.