Bears Pro Bowl DL Akiem Hicks returns from injured reserve

To make room, the Bears put tight end Ben Braunecker on injured reserve with a concussion he suffered against the Giants last month.

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Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

Akiem Hicks pulls down Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the season opener.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Less than 24 hours before kickoff against the rival Packers in a game that could bury their playoff hopes— or keep them flickering —the Bears brought in reinforcements Saturday.

Akiem Hicks, the Pro Bowl defensive lineman who remained one of the team’s most vocal leaders even while sitting out with a dislocated left elbow, was activated off injured reserve. He figures to start Sunday against the Packers at Lambeau Field— though it remains to be see if he’ll be on a snap count.

To make room, the Bears put tight end Ben Braunecker on injured reserve with a concussion he suffered against the Giants last month. He finishes the season with six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.

The Bears have teased Hicks’ return for two weeks, with coach Matt Nagy saying Friday that “we want to get him out there” against their rivals. Per league rules, Hicks was allowed to practice for two weeks but couldn’t return to play in games until Sunday.

“His characteristics speak volumes, especially to this defensive group,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said Friday. “I saw that once I first met him. It’s going to be huge to have him out there.”

Mack calls Hicks “Mufasa,” the name of the father in The Lion King. The attention he’ll draw Sunday figures to open up the Bears’ edge rush attack, be it Mack or fellow outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.

“It’s another force inside, right there, that has to be accounted for,” Mack said. “It just makes the game easier.”

Hicks had only one sack in four starts this year — he missed Week 4’s game with a knee problem— but the takedown was of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He dislocated his elbow Week 5 in London when his left arm was caught between Mack and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. He stayed with the team during his rehab, going from lifting less than 5 lbs. to Sunday’s return.

“I’ve always thought thatAkiemhas been an integral part of this entire defense,” defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said this week. “When he’s been on the field, he, obviously has more impact [than] when he’s off the field.”

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