For the first time since early October, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was suited up and able to practice Sunday.
Hicks had been out since suffering an elbow injury in London against the Oakland Raiders. The Bears placed the Pro Bowl defensive tackle on injured reserve the following week.
Per NFL rules, Hicks is not eligible to return from IR until he sits out eight games. That requirement will be completed after Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Since Hicks was hurt the week immediately before the bye week, he will have been out a total of nine weeks.
Nagy said that Sunday’s practice was laid back, so he could not vouch for Hicks’ readiness to return to a game situation. However, the return of the vocal leader to the practice field was a welcome addition.
“It was nice to see him out there on the field,” said Nagy. “He's been on the sidelines, he's popping in and out. He's been around in meetings and all that. He's never left us. We've felt him, which is great. But to see him actually out there on a very kick-back tempo type of practice was really good.”
Since losing Hicks, the Bears have seen a drop in production from their pass rush, going from averaging 4.25 sacks in the first four games of the season to 1.38 afterward.
Hicks will be eligible to play on December 15, when the Bears will travel to Green Bay. Nagy said that he couldn’t guarantee that Hicks will be physically ready to play but things are trending in the right direction.
“I hate to put any predictions out there,” said Nagy, “but I feel good where he's at, that it's a good pace. But again, we'll see as we go. It's literally going to be another one of those day-by-days for him, for the Packers.”
At 6-6, the Bears have an outside chance at the playoffs, but Nagy said that the team’s position in the standings would not factor into any decision made about Hicks.
“If Akiem is ready to play and ready to go for the Green Bay Packers game,” said Nagy, “then regardless of anything we want him to be able to play.”