Journey to LIII: Akiem Hicks wants to avoid move-out day as long as he can

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 23: Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST – There is a tradition at Halas Hall that came to an end on the Monday after the regular season finale.

It features one thing that is usually commonplace around the Bears’ locker room on those days. It’s one item that Akiem Hicks knows too well, and was glad he didn’t have to see it again.

“Guys had to pack their black bags yesterday,” said the defensive end, referring to the bags used by players to get stuff out of their locker rooms when the season ends. “I couldn’t imagine having that feeling again, knowing the type of team that we have.”

Luckily he doesn’t. The pain of having to do so in his first two years with the Bears at the end of the regular season will end another day. Hicks hopes that’s later rather than sooner, because he knows the pain of playoff exits without a title.

In 2013 with the Saints, Hicks saw his team win a Wild Card game on the road against the Eagles before falling to the eventual champion Seahawks in the divisional round. With the Patriots in 2015 he went a step further, reaching the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs in Denver.

Despite a great effort, New England lost to the eventual champion Broncos by two points.

“Oh, it’s definitely a motivator,” said Hicks of those two playoff exits. “No question. It is a motivator because you know that these opportunities come far and few in between and if you don’t take advantage of it, you may never get the opportunity again.”

Getting it this year, in this way, wasn’t a surprise for Hicks, who touted the Bears’ talent back in OTAs and training camp. A 12-4 record though? Hicks was insistent that it was going to happen – and even remember packing up his stuff last year as the time when he started thinking big about 2018.

“It hurt a lot. I remember sitting in the locker room and I had a conversation with Tony Medlin just about how special it is to play in the playoffs,” said Hicks. “Because we were watching teams get ready and solidify their seeds and getting to that moment and we’re all sitting in the locker room and we’re packing our bags and knowing that this is the end of our season and that potentially, half the guys that were here last year aren’t here anymore and that happens every year.

“I have a huge appreciation for it.”

Now he has the ability to put those plastic bags away – maybe all the way to February.

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