When Khalil Mack burst upon the Chi-Town scene, he electrified the fanbase and reignited the Chicago Bears' aspirations as a contender.
That was three seasons ago now, though. And the Bears' fearsome pass rusher knows time is never on an NFL player's side and Chicago has none to waste heading into the 2021 campaign.
"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," Mack said Wednesday, via the Chicago Sun-Times' Patrick Finley. "Charles Woodson told me a long time ago -- he was like, 'You cannot waste time. This [stuff] is very valuable.'
"I understand that now, going into Year 8. And [I've] only been in the playoffs three times so far -- and losing in the first round every one of them. [Stuff] is very valuable. Time is of the essence."
Woodson, who's headed for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was a popular name Wednesday as he was mentioned by another former teammate in Aaron Rodgers, played with Mack for a pair of seasons with the Raiders.
Mack made it to the playoffs just once during his four seasons with the Raiders.
While Mack galvanized new hope in Chicago with thoughts of a new-age Monsters of the Midway when he arrived, the dominant defense of 2018 has wavered a bit since that NFC North-winning season. Statistically speaking, the Bears defense wasn't even a top-10 unit in 2020, finishing at 11th in total defense.
Though the Bears made it to the postseason last year, they backed into it on the heels of a 35-16 loss to the Packers in Week 17. Over the final six games of the season, Chicago allowed 27 or more points to four opponents, flexing its defensive might against only the Texans and Jaguars.
"We've got to bring it all together and be what we know we can be -- and that's a great defense," said Mack, who had nine sacks last season and made it to his sixth Pro Bowl.
As the storylines and focus have spotlighted improving the Bears' struggling offense, Mack is steadfast with his team outlook and picking up his and the defense's play if the offense is struggling.
"The thing about a team sport is everybody's got to carry each other," Mack said. "It's about everybody being of one accord and everybody doing what it takes to win ballgames, whether it's them scoring 17 points or 14 or 12 or us shutting another team out. Whatever it takes to win a ballgame is definitely what we've got to step up and be able to do on defense."
The Bears are entering a hugely pivotal season for the franchise. They drafted rookie quarterback Justin Fields, but veteran Andy Dalton is slotted as the starter after signing a one-year deal. After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are each believed by many to be sitting on the hot seat. There is a roster brimming with players entering the final year of their current deals, perhaps most notably receiver Allen Robinson. And the 30-year-old Mack knows what happened last season wasn't near good enough and any talk isn't going change that, because work needs to be done and time's a wasting.
"Of course, we're not satisfied with the result last year," Mack said. "So, there's work to be done. Enough talking. I don't do that. I don't like to talk about it."