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Bears players embracing first trips to Pro Bowl


ORLANDO – Akiem Hicks will never forget his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Neither will Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Mitchell Trubisky, Cody Whitehair, Charles Leno Jr. or Tarik Cohen.

All seven Bears players spending the week in Florida as part of the NFC squad are making their first appearances in the league's annual all-star game.

"I'm juiced about it," said Hicks, a seven-year NFL veteran. "This is what you dream about. It's a huge honor to be in this position. I'm going to have a lot of fun."

A defensive tackle, Hicks led the Bears with 12 tackles-for-loss and ranked second behind Khalil Mack with 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. Hicks feels he had a better season in 2017 when he registered 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss, but he failed to earn Pro Bowl honors while playing for a team that went 5-11.

"I played well," Hicks said. "I put myself in position to be where I wanted to be, and it didn't happen. But that's how it goes sometimes."

Jackson was voted to the Pro Bowl in his second NFL season after recording a career-high six interceptions and scoring three touchdowns on two interception returns and a fumble return. His five defensive TDs since joining the Bears in 2017 as a fourth-round pick are tied for the most by a player in his first two NFL seasons.

"It's a wonderful feeling, it's a great feeling," Jackson said. "It's a blessing to be out here around these guys, guys that you looked up to, you watched in college and high school play, and now you're sharing a field with them."

Trubisky was added to the NFC team Monday in place of Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who is preparing to play in the Super Bowl. In his first full season as a starter, Trubisky completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 95.4 passer rating. He also rushed for 421 yards and three TDs on 68 carries.

"It's awesome to be out here with these guys," Trubisky said. "I'm just blessed to be here. I'm grateful for the opportunity."

Whitehair and Leno were added to the NFC roster Tuesday, replacing Saints teammates Max Unger and Terron Armstead, respectively. It's the first time the Bears have had two offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl since center Olin Kreutz and guard Ruben Brown went in 2006.

A 2014 seventh-round draft pick, Leno is the lowest Bears draft pick to make the Pro Bowl since 1991 when safety Shaun Gayle, a 1985 10th-round pick, was selected.

"Whatever you want to do in life, if you have the vision, you've got to attack it and go get it," Leno said.