With the Bears preparing to host the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs Sunday, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks shares his thoughts exclusively with ChicagoBears.com:
The most exciting thing about this week is being in that moment again. It's been three years since I was in the playoffs and it just feels good. It feels like you have everything to gain.
What a difference a year makes! My first thought going to Minnesota last weekend is that we already had clinched the NFC North championship. We are now the dominant force in this division rather than walking into their stadium at the end of the year like we had done the previous two years knowing that our season was over and knowing that there wasn't any hope. That's obviously no longer the case.
What makes this team so special is that guys love football. I know it's a cliché, but guys love football. Guys come over to my house on Thursday nights for team dinners and we watch the football game and we talk about football. There's a genuine love for the game in our locker room.
The biggest difference between the regular season and the playoffs is that it's win or go home. That's the feeling. That's what you go to sleep thinking about: 'If we don't win this game, then we're done.' I hope that resonates with everybody. I know that there are guys on this team who have played at that high level and seen it and how it's supposed to be done, and it falls on us to make it happen.
These opportunities are so few and far between that you have to take advantage of it when you get it. You don't want to look back on it and say, 'I wish I had done better. I wish I had gotten those extra two hours of sleep. I wish that I had worked out to my full capacity. I wish I had gotten treatment.' You don't want to have those feelings. You don't want to have any regrets.
I'm really looking forward to playing at Soldier Field Sunday. Our fans have been great. You feel the noise falling down onto the field and you can just see in the [opposing] players' eyes how they are responding to all the stuff going on around them rather than worrying about us coming after them. It's a huge benefit to have. The defense feeds off of it because we play on energy. So when the fans are up, we're up. And when we're up, the fans will get up because we're dominating. It works. We share the energy.