Four questions as the NFC North champion Bears hit the road to face the 49ers on Sunday, needing a win — or a Cowboys loss — to secure at least the No. 3 seed in the playoffs:
How excited was Akiem Hicks?
The defensive end was emotional when coach Matt Nagy called him Tuesday and told him he had made the Pro Bowl.
“I’m emotional right now,” he said Friday. “It’s exciting.”
The whole week was a blur — for the wrong reasons. Hicks felt sick Wednesday and stayed home Thursday with the flu. He felt better Friday and practiced in full.
“When you come into this league, you want to earn the respect of the people that have done it before you, and … your peers,” he said. “And when you get to that moment and you see that they see in you what you saw in yourself that entire time, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Asked about the validation of making a Pro Bowl after playing on three teams, Hicks quickly reflected on the trade that sent him from the Saints to the Patriots.
“Sean [Payton] kicked me out of New Orleans,” he said. “Bill [Belichick] brought me in, got my career going back down the right path. And I went back, and I got with [general manager Ryan] Pace again. And it’s been a great story ever since.”
How proud was Khalil Mack?
The star outside linebacker is the only one of the five Bears Pro Bowl players to have participated in the event before.
“Real happy for them,” he said. “But it’s good and bad news, you know what I’m saying? Because that’s not the game we want to play in.”
Mack said the Bears are more focused on reaching the Super Bowl, which would preclude any Pro Bowl participation.
The next step toward that goal: beating the 49ers in Santa Clara, California, which is near where Mack played for the Raiders. On Monday night, the Raiders could host their last game in Oakland. They’re bound for Las Vegas but haven’t announced where they will play next year while the new stadium is built.
“That place could get loud,” Mack said of the Oakland Coliseum. “Even on bad seasons and bad times, they came in there, and they supported the Raiders. It’s going to be bittersweet for those guys, I already know.”
Halftime hot tip
The Bears, who are four-point favorites, are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games at the 49ers.
Who takes Eddie Jackson’s place?
The Pro Bowl safety, who sprained his right ankle after intercepting a pass from Aaron Rodgers last week, was ruled doubtful for the game after missing practice the entire week.
Third-year player Deon Bush, who hasn’t started a game since 2016, will take his place.
Bush, who has played only 42 defensive snaps this season, said he’s better prepared than he was two years ago.
“I know a lot more than I knew in the past,” he said this week.
The Bears also declared outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who sprained his right elbow against the Packers, doubtful.
Jackson and Lynch could stay home Saturday, when the Bears fly to San Francisco. The Bears hope both can return in time for the playoffs.
What’s with the beard?
Everyone in the Bears’ quarterback room has agreed not to shave — or even trim — their beards.
“It’s not the playoff beard,” Mitch Trubisky said. “We all made a pact that we’re going to do it.”
Trubisky has worn a beard all season. Now it just might look more scraggly than usual.
“I’ve had a baby-face my whole life, and then all of a sudden this year I’ve got a beard,” he said. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to rock this thing as long as I can.’”
Nagy isn’t going along with it. Two years ago, he grew out a playoff beard so long that he had to put product in it.
“I’m not doing that again,” he said.