Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks walked into the Bears’ locker room and waved at waiting media members to follow him to his corner. After a brief moment to collect his thoughts, it was finally time to discuss his ejection for making contact with an official late in the first half of the Bears’ 48-10 rout of the Buccaneers in Week 4.
“There’s no feeling like going into the locker room just before halftime by yourself,” Hicks said Thursday. “You sit in the locker room. It’s just not something you’re accustomed to.”
It was Hicks’ first moment to consider his own actions, which began with a spat with Bucs guard Ali Marpet, included contact with down judge Mike Carr and ended with him throwing his jersey and pads into the crowd after his ejection.
Hicks said he was “very relieved” to receive only a $33,435 fine from the NFL. After his ejection, he was concerned about how a suspension would negatively affect the Bears more than him missing the entire second half of a blowout victory.
“My boys know I’m going to run hot sometimes, [and] one place that I run hot is when you have stuff on the line in a game,” said Hicks, who’s playing at an All-Pro level with three sacks and two forced fumbles in the first four games.
“I guess I just look more at the possible penalties — what could have happened, the damage I could have done to our team. Let’s say we were in a third-and-short and I get a penalty like that, and now they’ve got a first down and a chance to win the game. It’s those things that you have to be more disciplined with.”
Hicks declined to revisit the circumstances on the field that resulted in his ejection. But he said it was important for him to discuss his situation with his teammates before speaking publicly.
“I really wanted how I felt about the situation [understood in-house] and how I wanted to react better than I had on the field,” Hicks said. “There are a lot of young guys that look up to me on this team. It’s hypocritical of me to go out there and do things like that and come back to the locker room and think that everything’s gravy. It doesn’t work that way. So I wanted to make sure that our guys knew how I felt about the situation, and then I spent time with [the media].”
The Bears’ young guys heard Hicks’ message, too. Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith said that Hicks spoke from the heart.
“Like a leader should, [he] stepped up to the plate, which is not easy for guys to do,” Smith said. “A lot of respect for that guy.
Coach Matt Nagy said he wanted Hicks and his entire team to view the ejection as a “learning lesson.”
“This was the first time I’ve been ejected from a game in my entire life, so it was very humbling,” Hicks said. “The next time I’m in that situation, it will give me a chance to react better. It’s also a lesson to the guys on the team that you don’t put your personal situation above the team’s situation.”
The Bears didn’t exactly need Hicks to finish off the Bucs, but he still sounded eager to redeem himself Sunday against the Dolphins. He made his objective clear.
“Destroy,” Hicks said. “Destroy everything.”