Bears' goal to have Hicks back practicing when first eligible Sunday
The Bears have clawed their way back to .500 with three wins in their past four games and fully understand they need all the help they can get in their unlikely bid to return to the postseason after last year's division title campaign.
Chasing current NFC wild cards Seattle (9-2) and Minnesota (8-3), the 6-6 Bears could run the table against the division-leading Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Vikings over the final four games and still miss the playoffs.
But if that were to happen, they're hopeful they won't be missing Pro Bowl defensive end Akiem Hicks for the majority of the final stretch, like they have in the past seven-plus games.
Hicks, who has been on injured reserve since dislocating his left elbow in the Week 5 loss in London to the Oakland Raiders, is eligible to resume practice Sunday.
He's first eligible to play again in Week 15 at Lambeau Field, and though Matt Nagy admits it's still unclear whether the burly lineman can get through a full practice, never mind play in a game, the coach confirmed Friday that's the goal.
"It'd be huge. Any time you have a guy that is the type of player he is, the type of leader he is, what he's meant, Nagy said. "I like the way he's handled himself here in the last whatever it is, seven or eight weeks," Nagy said Monday.
"He's done a great job at being around and being a great teammate and a leader and mentor to all these younger guys. It's exciting when you get to this point. It does feel like forever ago, but hopefully we can get that moving forward."
Hicks, who went to his first Pro Bowl last season, leads the Bears with 24 sacks and 39 tackles for loss since his 2016 arrival. And since suffering the grotesque injury when his left arm took the brunt of a collision with teammate Khalil Mack's helmet at Tottenham Hotspur stadium, Mack and others have sorely missed the heart and soul of Chicago's defense.
Mack has only 2 sacks since then, and the Bears have tallied only 11 combined over the past two months, when they've allowed as many 100-yard rushers as they did in the previous 22 combined games.
Granted, the Bears defense remains in the top five in the NFL in points (4) and yards (5) allowed despite playing without Hicks since Week 5 and fellow defensive leader Danny Trevathan since Week 10.
Still, welcoming back one of the best two-way D-lineman in the game obviously wouldn't hurt as they gear up for the most difficult stretch, with the stakes at their highest this season.
"First of all, they understand, they're aware of that. … I just think it's a credit to our players for battling through what we've gone through because of what we've done, right?" Nagy said. "It's putting ourselves in this position. But, to keep fighting, and that's what I like most about it. That's why last night felt so good in that locker room: because we understand that we're continuing to fight. Is it perfect? No. Can we be better? Yes. We know we have our hands full the next coming games, but as long as we just hone in on the Dallas Cowboys at home who knows?
"We're in a position where we need help. But none of that matters if we don't handle our business."