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Patriots coach Bill Belichick: Ex-pupil Akiem Hicks a ‘very disruptive player’

Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throws as Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks pressures him. | David Banks/AP

Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throws as Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks pressures him. | David Banks/AP

The best play a Bears defender made Sunday came on the Dolphins’ 70th snap.

On third-and-goal from the Bears’ 1, with a touchdown needed to end the game in overtime, the Dolphins handed off out of the shotgun to running back Kenyan Drake, who was lined up to the right of quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks, who was lined up over right guard Jesse Davis, shoved Davis inside (toward the center)
and hit Drake head-on. The ball came loose, and Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman recovered it.

‘‘He really came off the ball with power, knocked the line of scrimmage back, got the back, knocked it out,’’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ‘‘It was a tremendous play.’’

Playing his first game after being ejected from the Bears’ blowout Sept. 30 of the Buccaneers for making contact with an official, Hicks didn’t see the result. He was face-first in the grass at Hard Rock Stadium, in pain and exhausted from playing in the sticky South Florida heat.

‘‘We had our backs against the wall,’’ Hicks said Thursday. ‘‘You just let it loose. . . . I think everybody knew what type of situation we were in, and everybody did their best to make the play. It just happened to come my way.”

In an alternate universe, Hicks would be doing the same for the Patriots.

In the hours before Hicks accepted a two-year contract to join the Bears in March 2016, he spoke with Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the phone. Belichick wanted Hicks to stay with the Patriots, who had traded tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for him the previous season.

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Hicks will face the Patriots for the first time in the regular season Sunday, although he was on the Bears team that traveled to Foxborough, Massachusetts, for joint practices and a preseason game in August 2016.

‘‘I really enjoyed my time there,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I really enjoyed coach Belichick, no matter what [the media says] about how
quiet he is. I think he’s a great guy and a great coach in this league. He helped me out tremendously.’’

Belichick can appreciate what Hicks has become since. After playing out the first year of his contract with the Bears, he signed a four-year, $48 million deal to stay even longer.

‘What he does is, he’s hard to block,’’ Belichick said. ‘‘It doesn’t make any difference what the play is. You can run to him, and he’s hard to block. You can run away from him, and he makes tackles for loss on the back side.

‘‘He’s quick and can get around those blocks when there’s more space back there because everybody is going to the front side. He can power-rush. He can rush the edges with his quickness. He’s a very, very disruptive player.’’

Fangio knows what Hicks can do, too — and he thinks there’s another level still awaiting him.

‘‘I think he can do more than he does,’’ Fangio said. ‘‘But I like the way he plays and I like him as a guy and I think he’s still got more that he can do.’’