The Chicago Bears head to London Thursday to begin preparations to face the Oakland Raiders Sunday. For two of the Bears’ biggest stars this season, linebacker Khalil Mack and kicker Eddy Piñeiro, this game specifically will mean more than most.
Both Mack and Piñeiro will be facing the team that traded them away–and while they each of them are saying that Sunday’s game against the Raiders is just another game, it’s clear by other comments they’ve made that it’s not.
Both Mack and Piñeiro Were Surprised to Be Traded
This July, during the heart of the Bears kicking competition, when Piñeiro was asked whether he felt any added pressure due to the fact that the Bears had a conditional draft pick tied up in his trade deal, he said: “Not really. The Raiders gave me away for pennies.” Piñeiro, who said he felt blindsided by the trade, was only with Oakland for a season. Mack spent his first four years there.
Mack said Tuesday that he had expected to be with the Raiders for “the long haul,” but says he understands that the NFL is a business. “That’s the expectation when you get drafted to a team: You want to be there for the long haul and bring championships and all those good things,” he said. “It’s the business side of it that doesn’t really let you do that.” His interview in its entirety can be seen below.
Piñeiro Has a Chance to Show Both Teams What He’s Made Of
Piñeiro was undrafted and signed by the Raiders after kicking in college for two seasons at the University of Florida. He injured his groin before the 2018 season and was traded to Chicago this offseason.
The Raiders traded Piñeiro for a conditional seventh-round pick, which will be earned if Piñeiro is listed as active on the Bears roster for five games. The fifth game Piñeiro will play as a Bear, of course, will be this Sunday against the Raiders.
“To me, it’s not a big deal,” said Piñeiro. “Just gotta make my kicks like every other game and that’s what I’m focused on.” The only concern surrounding Piñeiro over the past few weeks has been the knee on his kicking leg. He has been dealing with a pinched nerve and resulting soreness for weeks. The arrow there, however, is pointing up.
“I think my knee is getting a lot better,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “The training staff here is doing a great job. I’m trying to recover as fast as I can and the bye week’s going to be a big week for me to get completely healthy.” His biggest test will be in a foreign country against his former team on Sunday.
Everyone Will Be Looking For a Mack Attack
This game may mean the most to Khalil Mack, regardless of what he says about it. “It’s another game, man,” Mack told reporters Tuesday. “It’s going to be a fun one because I know a few of the guys out there.”
Mack noted that he’s currently “suppressing the emotional side…the other side is to go out and make them pay for it.” That’s a scary thought for Raiders nation, many of whom did not want to lose their defensive star to a trade with the Bears.
Mack referred to one of his former teammates, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, as a “brother,” but said he’d also be looking forward to competing against him. Mack also noted that while there weren’t many of his former teammates still with the Raiders due to a high turnover since he left, he’ll still have a connection to several of the players.
“There are feelings you suppress,” he said. “But also, it’s no big deal to me, man. I’m here. I love the Bears and I’m going to go out and try to get this win.”
Mack didn’t say much else about his former team, because, in his mind, talk is cheap. “You could talk all day, man. But I ain’t a talker. I just want to go out and show it. And I’m going to let that be that.” We’ll know soon enough whether or not Mack is a Carr wrecker Sunday.