Bernstein: Just Shut Down Akiem Hicks, Already

(670 The Score) More power to the giant man whose teammates call him "Mufasa," but his work in 2019 should be done.
As news broke Wednesday that Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan was headed to injured reserve after suffering a gruesome elbow injury in November, it immediately focused our attention on stalwart defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who returned to action in a loss to the Packers on Sunday after hurting his elbow in early October. The significance of Hicks' presence was obvious, in both his effect on the play of the Bears' defensive front as well as his role as an emotional and demonstrative tone-setter.

Twice Hicks left the game in seemingly intense pain, only to re-enter after a couple of plays off and an adjustment of his protective brace. To hear him explain it, it couldn't have been easy to work through.

"I would hate to describe it," Hicks told NBC Sports Chicago afterward. "I guess just imagine bones, doing that, moving a little bit when you don't want it to." 

Hicks was grinding the knuckles of his fists on each other to make his point too, which hurts just to consider.

The Bears' orthopedists and athletic training staff have more information than we do about what specifically is at risk for Hicks if he continues to play in their remaining two games, so it's unlikely he would've been cleared if he were in danger of exacerbating anything to the point of jeopardizing his future effectiveness. It also speaks to his character and professionalism that he wanted to do what he could to keep the playoff pipe dream alive for as long as possible.

But the reality is that the best move for him and the team is that he shut it down now and do everything he can to heal up and return to form. Where Trevathan is a free agent at the conclusion of the season and may have played his last snap as a Bear, Hicks has two years remaining on his deal and will again be expected to anchor one of the better defenses in the NFC. That matters more than anything at the moment, so every effort must be made to ensure that he's fully himself for 2020.

We don't have to be doctors to know that the feeling Hicks described can't be a good thing at the very least -- and is probably something worse than that. If he continues to push to play simply because he feels it's the right thing to do, he should be dissuaded otherwise. If he's merely pursuing achievable statistical thresholds that could trigger pre-negotiated bonuses, it might be wise to split some differences if it means a better possibility of him being fully at the peak of his powers come spring minicamp and OTAs.

The man's arm is still messed up, and he's not just some depth-chart name. If the Bears bounce back from the disappointment of 2019 and regain what they believe is their rightful place at or near the top of the conference and contend once again, Akiem Hicks will be a major reason why.

So thanks for the effort, big fella. Now get yourself right.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.