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Bears DL Akiem Hicks ready for return against Packers

It’s cliché to say Akiem Hicks has had Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field circled ever since he dislocated his elbow in Week 5 against the Raiders. But it’s true.

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears
Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks sacks Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 1.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s cliché to say that Akiem Hicks has had Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field circled on his calendar ever since he dislocated his left elbow in Week 5 against the Raiders.

But it’s true.

“That’s a pretty specific date,” the Bears’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Monday. “I knew when it was coming. I’ve prepared accordingly.”

The Bears have been cautious not to guarantee Hicks’ return at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Coach Matt Nagy merely said Monday that he hoped Hicks would play. But Hicks’ insistence that this is a “regular work week” reinforces the belief that he’ll be on the field.

The Bears gathered Monday for “more of a mental day,” Nagy said, and will return to practice Wednesday. That will give the team three days to determine Hicks’ fitness.

Per the league’s rules regarding injured reserve, Hicks was allowed to return to practice last week. The Bears will ramp up his workload during practice, although they don’t have to detail exactly how much. Because he’s still on IR, they’re not required to include him on the injury report all week.

If he projects to play Sunday, the Bears figure to activate him off IR on Saturday afternoon.

Even though Hicks believes he’ll play, how he makes it through the week in practice is still important for his mindset.

“The mentality for him is try to get stronger each and every day,” Nagy said. “He hasn’t been through any of the live stuff at all. Each day, try to stay positive, try to get stronger and see where it takes us by the end of the week. But hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”

He’s not there yet, but Hicks believes he will be in time. That promises to be a boost to a Bears rushing defense that lost inside linebacker Roquan Smith for the season after he tore a pectoral muscle Thursday against the Cowboys. Hicks’ presence should benefit outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd, who have combined for two sacks over the last four games.

“One of the things I really focused on was making sure my elbow was in the strongest place possible,” Hicks said. “We still have some finishing up to do. All these days to make gains and get a little bit better, just working on that.”

Hicks, who also missed the Vikings game in Week 4 with a knee injury, has just four starts this season — and just one sack, against the Packers in Week 1. He wouldn’t make any bold promises about his play once he returns.

“Coaches hate it when I say this: I just love to play good football,” he said. “I don’t expect any crazy things. I don’t want to play outside my norm. I want to play good football. That’s all I can do.”

Hicks has been rebuilding strength in his elbow since his arm was caught between Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and Mack on a running play in the first quarter in London. He wasn’t able to lift more than five pounds at first. Now he says the elbow feels good, but he won’t know for sure how it holds up until Sunday.

“Everything’s going to come to light those first couple plays,” he said. “There’s nothing like that first moment of being back, or stepping on the field, and that first contact. You can simulate in whatever environment you want, but there’s nothing like it.”