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Working through the five stages of grief at the loss of Khalil Mack

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After weeks and weeks of speculation and hearsay, Jon Gruden and the Raiders did the unthinkable. Traded their future Hall of Fame, Defensive end, Khalil Mack.

On December 8th, 1941, one day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood in front of a joint session of Congress and described the previous days attack on U.S. soil “a date which will live in infamy.”

Today, I sit here and declare before Raider nation that September 1st, 2018 is also “a date which will live in infamy.”

By now, we have all heard the details of the trade. What we once thought could and would never happen, has become reality. Khalil Mack will no longer wear the silver and black #52 jersey. No more moments like the five-sack games against the Denver Broncos or the pick six against the Carolina Panthers, no more will we have the only player in the history of the NFL to receive first team All-Pro honors at two positions (LB, DE) in the same year.

The first stage of grief is denial. When the news first broke, and Adam Schefter’s tweet went out to the twitterverse, Most of us could not believe what we were reading.

Some of the thoughts going through my mind were, ‘This makes no sense,’ ‘This must be a mistake or some sort of fake news,’ ‘How can Derek Carr and the other guys take the field without Khalil?’

Derek Carr was also in a state of disbelief.

Soon after denial, came extreme anger. What on earth is Jon Gruden thinking? We all know that with his $100 million dollar contract comes full control of roster and personnel decisions. Reggie McKenzie is general manager by title only.

When Gruden was named head coach of the Oakland Raiders for the second time, many of his critics were weary of his desire to want full control of personnel. The past has shown that Jon Gruden the GM can sometimes get in the way of Jon Gruden the coach. This is another example.

It is amazing to me how in six months Jon Gruden has gone from the savior of the organization to public enemy number one in the minds of some.

Once my anger subsided, which took a very long time, I found myself beginning to bargain with the football gods. ‘Please let the deal include RoQuan Smith, Two first round picks, and two second round picks. That is the only thing that will make this fair.’

Then on second thought, ‘What if Khalil decided he wants to accept the Raiders offer and doesn’t want to be a Chicago Bear?’ I was desperate to come up with any logical scenario that would keep Khalil a Raider.

Later in the day came the depression. What would I do with my Khalil Mack jersey? What will this defense look like without Khalil Mack?

In 2016, the Raiders defense ranked dead last in the league in sacks with 25. In 2017, there was slight improvement. The Raiders ranked 24th with 31 sacks. Generating pressure off the edge could be a new problem for the 2018 Raiders defense.

The trio of rookie defensive linemen P.J. Hall, Maurice Hurst, and Arden Key will have added pressure to produce with the loss of Mack. Also, Paul Guenther will shoulder more of the burden to ensure that his blitz schemes and packages are as creative as ever.

The last stage of grief is acceptance. Yes, Khalil Mack was traded, but the team and it’s fans must move on. On September 10th, the Los Angles Rams are coming to town and the Raiders need to start the season with a win. With or without Khalil Mack.

This is how the business of the NFL works. Players come and go. Isn’t that why we love sports? We develop a love and appreciation for an individual who is willing to lay it all on the line for our enjoyment.

For four years Khalil Mack demonstrated what it meant to work hard, be dedicated to your job, be a leader, be an outstanding person, and win by any means!. And because of that I am forever grateful to have the opportunity to have had him on this team.