Bears linebacker Khalil Mack humbly shared the credit for being named to the AP All-Pro first team for the third time in four years Friday — with tacit acknowledgement that joining a top-10 defense has benefitted him just as he has been a boon for it.
“It means a lot,” Mack said of the All-Pro honor. “It speaks volumes to the guys around here, the coaches as well — coach Vic [Fangio], coach [Brandon] Staley and my teammates as well. Everybody has a hand in that. Usually see it on the field and you see it on Sundays. That’s what it’s really all about.”
Mack was one of four Bears to be named to the All-Pro first team. He was joined by safety Eddie Jackson, cornerback Kyle Fuller and kick returner Tarik Cohen — all of whom made the All-Pro team for the first time.
Jackson, a fourth-round draft pick from Alabama in 2017, had six interceptions in the regular season, with touchdown returns of 27 yards against the Vikings and 41 against the Lions. He also returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown against the Bills.
Fuller, a first-round draft pick (14th overall) from Virginia Tech by GM Phil Emery in 2014, had seven interceptions and 21 pass break-ups this season.
Cohen, a fourth-round draft pick from North Carolina A&T in 2017, averaged 12.5 yards on punt returns, fourth best in the NFL.
The Bears and Chiefs each had four players make the first team — most in the NFL. It’s the first time the Bears have had a player receive any All-Pro recognition since 2014, when guard Kyle Long was named to the second team. And it’s the first time the Bears have had a first-team All-Pro since 2012, when cornerback Charles Tillman and wide receiver Brandon Marshall made it (with cornerback Tim Jennings and defensive end Julius Peppers making the second team.)
The last time the Bears had four first-team All-Pro players was in 2006, when linebacker Brian Urlacher, center Olin Kreutz, kick returner Devin Hester and kicker Robbie Gould were honored. The Bears reached the Super Bowl that season.
Though Mack has made the All-Pro team twice before — and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 — this year’s honor still has special significance. He missed all of training camp and the preseason with the Oakland Raiders, then joined the Bears a week before the regular-season began. Except for three rookies, Mack was the only position player on either of this year’s All-Pro teams who was playing with a new team.
Seven days after joining the Bears, Mack made an immediate impact in the season opener against the Packers, with a sack, forced fumble, fumble recover and an interception return for a touchdown. He had five sacks and four forced fumbles in his first four games.
Despite behind hampered for two games and then missing two games with an ankle injury, Mack still finished with 12.5 sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss, si forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four pass break-ups and one interception.
“I knew I wanted to come in and make an impact. I wanted to be a leader and not just vocally, but with my actions,” Mack said. “Ultimately you want to win and that’s all I care about. We’re winning, but to win in the playoffs would be another step. I’m looking forward to it.”
Mack has several individual awards and honors, but no playoff victories. His only playoff appearance before this season was with the Raiders in 2016 — a 27-14 loss to the Texans on the road.
[Winning] is all a part of your legacy,” he said. “That’s what you want to be remember for — being a champion. That’s what you live for. You live for these types of moments. You live for these types of games.”
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