Bucky Gleason: Khalil Mack's homecoming against Bills hardly what anyone expected - The Buffalo News

Share this article

print logo

Bucky Gleason: Khalil Mack's homecoming against Bills hardly what anyone expected

Here's something that was unexpected Sunday, other than the score: Khalil Mack worked harder avoiding the rush after the game than he did trying to provide a rush during the Bills' 34-14 victory over the Raiders. He had such a rough afternoon that even the media blocked him.

Mack tried evading reporters who surrounded his stall in the visitors' locker room. He stalled for time and hoped they would disappear while he took a shower. After cleansing himself of a miserable performance against the Bills, he glanced up and asked the media if they were waiting for somebody.

"You," somebody said.

Mack knew the drill, of course. He was the best player in the history of the University at Buffalo, and he was back for a game for the first time since leading the Bulls to an 8-5 record four years ago. You don't need a bachelor's degree from a state institution to make that connection.

Plus, he was well aware of stories about a feud brewing between him and his alma mater. Actually, it takes two for a spat. Mack apparently had a beef with the only BCS program to offer him a scholarship. Once was a time in which he was grateful for the university that gave him an opportunity, but such days appear long gone.

Mack claimed he was in a hurry to meet his family – strange because he showed no sense of urgency. He took his time while his teammates complained about the cold water in the visiting showers and dressed for the trip to Miami to prepare for the Dolphins. Mack essentially went through the motions, just like he did on the field Sunday.

"You don't have five minutes, Khalil?" he was asked.

Mack walked away from his locker toward the training room while suggesting he needed an IV. It was odd. He showed no signs of being dehydrated, did nothing during the game that would cause dehydration and knew darned well, as linebacker Bruce Irvin said, that IVs were being administered elsewhere.

Bills' pummeling of Raiders shows their success is sustainable

Less than a minute later, he emerged with no IV and bolted for the door leading toward the tunnel. Apparently, it was too much for him to take five minutes of his time for the school that helped him become a star in the city that supported him, albeit from a distance, during his college days.

Finally, he stopped.

"OK," he said. "Whatcha got?"

What was it like to be back here? You're a Buffalo guy, which is why we're here.

"Yeah, I understand," he said. "It's always bad when you take an 'L,' but at the same time it was good to see some friends and some family."

What did they do to neutralize you, and why were they so effective?

"Um, it wasn't really neutralizing," Mack said. "It was just understanding the game plan, and we gave them too much defensively."

There were people who felt slighted because you didn't say anything about Buffalo last week. They knew you were coming back. What was that all about?

"Buffalo is just part of who I am," Mack said. "I went here for college and all that different stuff. I don't want to talk about it too much, you know what I'm saying? You want to come in here and play a football game."

Are you tired of being asked questions about Buffalo?

"It's the same thing over and over," he said. "I get the same questions about Buffalo over and over."

But this is a place you can shine light on.

"Yeah, I understand that," he said. "I can shine a light on a lot of different other things, too, but nobody asks about that. You feel me?"

Khalil Mack enters New Era Field Sunday morning. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Here's what I feel: The guy who showed up Sunday at New Era Field was nothing like the guy who played for UB. Mack was a good guy who carried himself with class and humility while wearing blue-and-white No. 46. He would have stood against the character who wore black-and-silver No. 52 and came across like a self-absorbed big-timer afterward.

It should have been effortless for him to pacify the masses by sending his regards to Buffalo and, more specifically, the University at Buffalo. He fielded questions for two minutes, 11 seconds. In 30 seconds, he could have thanked everyone for helping him, for believing in him, for supporting him, for contributing to his success.

Or he could have addressed the childish rift he has with UB. There was talk he was upset with UB because the school was slow to give his brother a scholarship while the program continued asking him for money. The whole thing sounded petty. In a matter of seconds, he could have put everything to rest.

Instead, he refused.

"That's all you want to talk about?" Mack said, in reference to UB.

I'm asking you.

"I told you that I wanted to talk to my mother, my family, everybody is important to me, too," Mack said. "That's important to me as well. Any questions about the game?"

Sure, let's talk about the game.

Khalil Mack praises Buffalo, wing joint Elmo's in CBS pregame feature

Let me be clear: Mack, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year and the only man in history to be voted into the Pro Bowl at two positions in the same season, is an elite player. We knew before anyone else did. The Bills fawned over him like he was Lawrence Taylor before lining up against Opie Taylor on Sunday. He was invisible.

Speaking of Taylors, Tyrod helped beat the Raiders with a quick-passing attack that called for short drops and throws over and around their top edge rusher. LeSean McCoy gained 151 yards rushing. The Bills kept Mack on the field, which was exactly where they wanted him, while holding the ball for more than 35 minutes.

Talk about the unexpected, Bills rookie linebacker Matt Milano was far better Sunday. Milano had twice as many tackles as Mack, returned one fumble 40 yards for a touchdown and forced another. Heck, kicker Stephen Hauschka had one less tackle and forced one more fumble than Mack did. He was invisible during the game and tried to disappear afterward.

It wasn't the homecoming anybody envisioned.

LeDarius Mack looks to make his own mark on UB football

There are no comments - be the first to comment