LAKE FOREST – There is no doubt now just how valuable No. 96 is to this Chicago Bears’ defense.
Since an elbow injury against the Raiders on October 6th knocked him out of the lineup and onto injured reserve, the unit hasn’t been as sharp or nearly as good against the run. On top of that, offenses are able to put more attention on outside linebacker Khalil Mack, limiting his ability to make game-changing plays at times over the last two months.
So with a slim playoff hope in the balance, the chance to get Hicks back in the lineup is certainly a boost for a group that’s not caught nor made a lot of their own breaks in 2019.
That’s especially true for the defensive lineman himself, who has found it difficult to be on the outside looking in for the longest stretch of his NFL career.
Hicks had yet to miss a game as a member of the Bears before this season, but he was out for Vikings game in Week 3 with knee trouble and then eight games with the elbow injury.
“I’m not gonna lie, it was super tough,” said Hicks. “You play the sport and you know that it’s violent and it’s rough, and they say that it’s a ‘100 percent’ injury rate? I always felt I was above that. I really haven’t experienced things that teammates of mine have experienced or opponents of mine have experienced.
“Yeah, it was hard on me. But everything that has a beginning has and end.”
That would be right now for the defensive end, who was a Pro Bowl selection in 2018.
This week Hicks is back on the practice field as his time on injured reserve has expired, giving him the chance to start playing starting with the Packers game next week at Lambeau Field. NFL rules dictate that a player on injured reserve must miss eight games, and the last of those for Hicks in this Thursday’s contest with the Cowboys.
If the Bears can beat Dallas at Soldier Field, they’ll keep their slim hopes for a playoff spot alive, and Hicks could play a major part in trying to save what has been a disappointing season.
He had six tackles and a sack in the three games he’s taken the field this season along with his ability to force teams to commit blockers to stop him and freeing up Mack.
After the first major missed time of his career, Hicks can’t wait for the chance to try to do so in Green Bay on December 15th.