Asked Sunday if he was happy with his play, Akiem Hicks turned and quizzed the man in the locker next to him.
Bears defensive end Mitch Unrein surprised him by launching into a sales pitch.
“I dunno why people aren’t talking about him going to the Pro Bowl,” Unrein said. “Seriously, he’s a dominant defensive end. People aren’t recognizing that, I don’t think.”
They did Wednesday, when Hicks was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week following a two-sack, 10-tackle, one-forced-fumble performance against the 49ers.
“Akiem has kept improving throughout the season,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Wednesday. “And he’s been one of the guys that have been there each and every week, playing a lot of plays for us and he’s been a steady bell cow for us in there.”
While the three-win Bears will probably go without a single Pro Bowl berth, and rightly so, a push for Hicks makes more sense than others the team promoted on the video board Sunday: special teamer Sherrick McManis, rookie center Cody Whitehair and cornerback Tracy Porter.
“He’s been a good get,” coach John Fox said.
Probably their best.
Of the nine players the Bears gave multi-year contracts to this offseason, Hicks is one of three — alongside McManis and Porter — to play in every game. Linebacker Danny Trevathan and tight end Zach Miller are out for the year and linebacker Jerrell Freeman is serving a performance-enhancing drug suspension. Guard Josh Sitton has missed four games, Unrein three, and tackle Bobby Massie has been inconsistent.
“It’s tough to look at (the Bears’ record) and say, ‘Aw, man, you’re doing a good job and keep kicking butt,’ because you want your whole unit to be successful, you want your whole team to be successful,’” Hicks said. “It’s a tough feeling to look at individual achievements. You just gotta keep pushing, man.”
After he was a poor fit as a 4-3 defensive end last year, the Saints traded him to the Patriots, who moved him back inside. Hicks slid comfortably into the Bears’ 3-4 system since signing a two-year, $10 million deal in March.
His career-high six sacks have come in bunches: one apiece on Oct. 2 and Oct. 9, two on Oct. 31 and two more Sunday.
“He’s still got a lot of improvement to go and a lot of potential to be realized,” Fangio said. “And if he keeps working I think he can get there.”