Bears Eager To Get Healthy Hicks Back With Defense

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(670 The Score) With the Bears' playoff hopes on the brink late last season, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks gave the team everything he had.

Chicago needed to win its final three games and gain a few breaks along the way if it was to sneak into the playoffs, and Hicks was eligible to return from injured reserve in Green Bay in Week 15. While he wasn't fully recovered from a left elbow injury, Hicks chose to play through the severe pain.

His grueling effort proved a point to the Bears.

"You can’t replace him," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said.

The Bears found that out the hard way in 2019, when Hicks played in just five games. Without him, the Bears posted 19 takeaways after recording 36 in a dominant 2018 season. Stars like pass rusher Khalil Mack and safety Eddie Jackson weren't as productive without the relentless presence of Hicks up front.

The 30-year-old Hicks was shut down by the Bears after that game in Green Bay but didn't require surgery on his left elbow. He's now back to 100% health, and the Bears are eager to get him back.

"What I’d like from him is to get back to where he was," defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. "He missed a lot of games last year, so all of his production that he had from previous seasons, those are the things we missed. We know he’s a dominant player inside. He creates a lot of problems for a lot of people. He’s a mismatch for a lot of guards and centers and sometimes tackles as well. 

"He’s going to be ready to go. I mean, he has told that to me. He has told that to numerous people. He has a chip on his shoulder for the time that he missed last year. I trust that."

In 2018, Hicks had 7.5 sacks and earned Pro Bowl recognition that was considered long overdue. Teammates and division rivals have admired Hicks as he constantly fights through double-team blocks, an effort that goes mostly unrecognized by statistics. The Bears also consider Hicks an emotional leader of their defense.

It's why getting Hicks back is so important for the Bears.

"Certainly, we’re different when he’s out there playing at a high level than when he’s not," Pagano said. "In the meeting room and around our guys, he’s a wise, wise man. He’s a smart guy. He gets it. He knows what’s going on. When he speaks, people listen. 

"He’s really really hungry. And really eager to get back on the field and be with his brothers out there competing and playing. He’s a great man. Nothing but great love and respect for him." 

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.