Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley played an instrumental role in getting All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack prepared to play in Sunday night's season opener in Green Bay.
Just eight days after being acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Raiders, Mack returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown, forced and recovered a fumble while sacking Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer and generated pressure that led to two sacks by teammates.
Staley shared some interesting details about getting Mack up to speed during the week leading up to the Week 1 game at Lambeau Field.
On Mack's performance against the Packers:
"It was about as impressive a performance as you could expect from a guy that just got here seven days ago. I think from the minute he got here we all had a sense that he could perform that way. But to see it happen in that type of environment just says so much about him."
On preparing Mack to play in the game:
"All week long we were really just trying to communicate as much as possible. We all had our eyes on him and were just eager to see how he would respond, and each day you just had the sense that he could go a lot more than we thought. During the game, we just wanted to make sure that he got into a rhythm and then just see how it went, take it play-by-play, series-by-series, and then just kind of go from there. He was great on the sideline. I felt like he got into a good rhythm in the game, and our offense did a good job of possessing the ball and that helped."
On how he found out the Bears had acquired Mack:
"My wife is the one that told me about it. Obviously, I was really excited. I got a call from [general manager] Ryan [Pace] and [coach] Matt [Nagy]. From there you knew, though, that there was going to be a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time. As a coach, it's so exciting for a challenge like that. That was the thing for Khalil. As exciting of a time as it was for him, there was a lot of work to be done to play in that first game. And he's such a competitor he was going to do everything in his power to take advantage of every minute in the day to be able to perform like he did [Sunday] night."
On the preparation process during the week:
"We were up early. [We met] before all the meetings started and after the meetings were done. He's so serious about his craft. But what was important for me and important for us as a coaching staff is that we didn't skip any steps with him. When you get a player, you can feel like, 'I've got to rush to get all this done.' We didn't want to skip any steps and I think that's something that we did a good job of, laying a foundation of how we want to play just from a technique standpoint, then from a scheme standpoint and then from a situation standpoint. We really started from the ground up, and then we got into Green Bay. The difficult part was that not only did he have to learn our stuff, but then you have to get ready to go play an opponent. So you felt like you had to put twice as much work in, but when you're working with a guy like him, he's just so eager, so willing, it was a lot of fun."
On the long hours each day:
"He's in New York City. Then the next thing you know he's in Chicago. And then seven days later, he's playing in Green Bay. We were up around six in the morning and then stayed until 10 at night. He was working with all of our people here in the equipment room, the training room. That's the thing about [Sunday] night's performance. This was a whirlwind for this guy. He left everything that he's known, come to this brand-new city and is meeting all these new people. [Sunday] night was just a culmination of a great week of preparation. He deserves a lot of credit. All of our people here on our training staff, equipment, staff, coaching staff, players, it was a team effort."
On who Mack spent time with during the week:
"A lot of times it was just us two. But then it would be him with his teammates sometimes. And then all of our defensive meetings and out on the field. I think he was able to quickly develop chemistry with a lot of the guys on the team. We've got such great team leaders—Akiem [Hicks], Mitch [Trubisky], everybody making him feel really at home, and then defensively within our outside 'backer position group—Leonard [Floyd], Sam [Acho], Aaron [Lynch], just really helping me and helping us get him up to speed."