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Bears’ Akiem Hicks returns to practice; Khalil Mack still out

Sixteen days after leaving the Vikings game with a hamstring injury, Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks returned to practice Thursday for the first time.

Akiem Hicks walks the sidelines during the Titans game in November.
Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks hurt his hamstring against the Vikings.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After leaving the Vikings game Nov. 16 with a hamstring injury, Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks returned to practice Thursday.

He was limited, but the work was a good sign for Hicks, who is eyeing a return Sunday against the Lions. He was sorely missed at Lambeau Field, where the Bears allowed 41 points in three quarters before the Packers relented.

“Obviously, you never want to be missing anybody; you always want big ‘96’ out there,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said Thursday morning. “We know what a great player and impactful player he is. Again, it just falls on my shoulders and the rest of the guys’ shoulders to pick up the slack.”

The Bears’ biggest name on defense, though, remained out of practice. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack missed his second straight day with a back injury, though he figures to play Sunday.

“It’s more precautionary,” coach Matt Nagy said. “I don’t think it’s anything that we’re real concerned about. You get into this part of the season, and you want to make sure that you don’t overdo certain things, so that’s kind of where we’ve been at the last few days with him.

“But I feel confident that he’ll be able to go [Sunday].”

After getting five sacks in a four-game stretch, Mack has gone three games without one.

“Is he frustrated? Hell, yeah,” Pagano said. “Are we all frustrated? Hell, yeah. But I have to figure out a way to make sure that he is successful and that our defense is successful.”

Foles in full

Quarterback Nick Foles practiced in full after returning on a limited basis Wednesday. He has recovered after hurting his right hip during the loss to the Vikings, an injury the Bears at first feared would be season-ending.

Foles will serve as the backup Sunday, though, after Nagy declared Mitch Trubisky the starter earlier this week. His presence as the backup quietly confirms something Nagy has refused to acknowledge since the team returned from the bye: that Trubisky is the starter on merit, not necessarily because of injury.

“[Foles] is doing pretty good running around in practice right now,” Nagy said. “So I would suggest and think that it would be [the backup Sunday]. It would take something, you know, for him to say to me that he’s not.”

This and that

Left tackle Charles Leno (toe) practiced, albeit on a limited basis, after sitting out Wednesday. Right tackle Germain Ifedi (calf) remained limited.

† Two Bears lead the NFC in Pro Bowl voting at their positions: Mack and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. Mack’s 76,684 votes lead the conference but trail the AFC’s leader, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, by about 43,000 votes. Patterson has 116,620 votes as a “return specialist,” or about 40,000 more than the AFC’s leader, Andre Roberts of the Bills.

† Mack was the Bears’ nominee for the NFL’s Rooney Sportsmanship Award.