FOXBORO, Mass. – During Tuesday's joint practice in New England, Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks steamrolled Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett to disrupt a running play.
It was a sight that likely would have made Bears coach John Fox wince a year ago when Hicks played for the Patriots and Bennett was in his final season in Chicago. But given their new allegiances, Fox no doubt will enjoy reviewing the play on tape.
"He's a big physical guy," Fox said of Hicks. "He's good at the point of attack. He likes to play football. He brings a certain energy and swagger to him out there."
Akiem Hicks appeared in 13 games and two playoff contests for New England last year.
That swagger was evident when Hicks celebrated his flattening of Bennett with a scream. It's the same way the 6-5, 336-pounder has reacted after making similar plays in training camp.
"I get excited pretty easily, but I think that's part of the position of a defensive lineman," Hicks said Tuesday after practice. "You've got to bring the juice."
Hicks has been bringing the juice ever since signing with the Bears as a free agent in March. He appeared in 48 games with 33 starts over three-plus seasons with the Saints before being traded to the Patriots last Sept. 30 after New Orleans had switched to a 4-3 defense.
Hicks appeared in 13 games and two playoff contests for New England last year, recording 21 tackles and three sacks. The Patriots tried to re-sign him, but he opted to join the Bears.
Since the first day of training camp, Hicks has helped infuse a new mentality on a defense that is determined to generate more takeaways and game-changing plays.
"He just plays with an attitude, an attitude that you want your d-linemen playing like," said inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. "It's not just him, but him being him, he's just one of those guys that demands attention. He just thinks he's the best thing smoking out there and he's going to play like it, too."
Hicks, who also batted down a Jimmy Garoppolo pass in Tuesday's practice, helped the Bears defense perform better than it had in Monday's first joint workout with the Patriots.
"I don't think that there was a plan to be extra animated," Hicks said. "It was more so just to play harder than we did yesterday and play a little bit better. There are a lot of things we got to fix and things we want to get better at and that's what this practice is for."
Hicks has enjoyed returning to New England to work out against his former team.
"The atmosphere was great," Hicks said. "The atmosphere was awesome. That's what we wanted out of training camp, to be able to compete against somebody and play hard and get that intensity up and make it feel like more of a game-like situation."