To Whom Much Is Paid, Much Is Expected

Out on the edge the stakes are high for both Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn after both experienced less success than they expected last season
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Khalil Mack signed a six-year, $141 million deal with $90 million guaranteed while Robert Quinn got five years, $70 million and $30 million guaranteed.

Between the two, the Bears got 11 sacks last season. Suffice to say, they expected more.

In Mack's case, it simply was a case of stats not reflecting the high level of play because he could have had two more sacks and 11 for the year but they were wiped out by needless penalties against other Bears. Pro Football Focus indicated as much by labeling him the best edge player in the league last year, even while he had 14 fewer pressures (31) than the previous season.

Quinn has no excuse or justification and wants none.

"At the end of the day, I got another opportunity this year," Quinn said. "I think we're all on the same page. I get the opportunity to hopefully reprove myself and hopefully earn the respect or however you want to say it, from the guys, make sure I don't disappoint them with the season like I did last year."

Two sacks and six quarterback hits was disappointing. Quinn did have an undefined injury issue. Some reports called it drop foot.

Now he has a back issue and the Bears cut back his participation in camp on Day 1 but he still practiced.

"I'm fine," Quinn said. "I was just saying I guess I'm one of the older guys around so I think they're just trying to manage the load, load management.

"So, it's still early in the year and I guess they added an extra game so it's going to be a long season. I don't need to try and burn out and kill yourself today because we've got plenty more days to come."

Mack had injury issues almost every week, including a shoulder situation.

"I'm out there, I'm 100 percent," Mack said. "I'm not blaming anything on anything, you know what I'm saying?

"When I'm out there, I'm doing whatever I can to help the team win. That's ultimately the kind of guy you got with me."

The Bears realize the beating Mack took last year while he was double- and triple-teamed.

"So we want to make sure—and he knows this—that we do everything we can on the prevention side, of the health and their bodies, and Khalil specifically," coach Matt Nagy said. "And then making sure we also help him out schematically.

"He's going to get double and tripled. How do we help alleviate that with him so that when he does get singled, he can have more chances to win?"

This usage issue is actually as much of a problem with Quinn. He was the player who said he was used to being at right defensive end with his hand down in the dirt when he came to Chicago. The only problem here was the scheme of Chuck Pagano moved him around from side to side, and didn't really let him put his hand in the dirt.

New coordinator Sean Desai might get him in better situations, but there seems to be a limit to what can be done in this 3-4 up front.

"I mean, if you want to be honest, if you've known my career, if you know me, you know where I like to be," Quinn said. "I think he knows where I'm best dominant at. But at the end of the day, you got to do what best fits the team but also what best fits the players to get the best out of the player."

Mack is starting to feel the pressure time constraints put on players. He's 30 now.

"There's always a sense of urgency, especially from our standpoint," Mack said. "You don't get too many years in the NFL, too many chances to win ballgames and too many chances to get to the playoffs and go all the way.

"Charles Woodson told me a long time ago, he was like, 'You cannot waste time. This (deleted) is very valuable.' I understand that now going into Year 8 and only (have) been in the playoffs three times so far and losing in the first round every one of them. (Deleted) is very valuable. Time is of the essence. There's always a sense of urgency."

The pressure on Quinn is somewhat different. When you get two sacks and you're getting paid as well as he is, this happens.

'You know what they say about pressure," Quinn said. "Pressure bursts pipes but makes diamonds. I don't have any diamonds on now but I can still show you some I've been blessed with. Can I borrow yours?

"No, I mean it's really no pressure. This is my 11th year, what pressure? I mean what pressure? I guess the only pressure I put on myself is my self-standard. From outside people I could really care less what you all think because I've got my own expectations for myself and that's all that really matters to me."

And the two sacks?

"It's just a bad year, that's all it was, it was just a bad year," Quinn said.

Out on the edge, bad years can't start to stack for anyone, especially those highly paid.

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