The Chicago Bears are playing to win.
And, yes, that apparently means Akiem Hicks is getting the green light to play.
#Bears have no plans to shut down Akiem Hicks for the rest of the season.
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) December 19, 2019
Matt Nagy reiterates that DT Akiem Hicks (elbow) will play Sunday vs. Chiefs and says again that he is treating this like a normal, meaningful game in terms of personnel. He left a little wiggle room, but he’s been consistent on this.
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) December 19, 2019
Some interesting updates from a pair of guys on the Bears beat, with Zack Pearson noting that the Bears don’t plan on shutting down Hicks for the final two games of the regular season. But also, Jason Lieser making note that Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy left some wiggle room in case there was a change of heart. To his credit, Hicks wants to play. But perhaps someone should strong hint at pumping the brakes, because this feels awfully familiar for Bears fans of a certain age.
If your spider-senses are tingling, it’s probably because you might remember Brian Urlacher insisting he play in the 2011 regular season finale against the Vikings. The Bears had been eliminated from postseason contention, but it wasn’t going to stop the future Hall of Famer from getting it in one last time. Unfortunately, the lasting memory of that game was Urlacher spraining his knee in the finale, re-injuring it during training camp, then having arthroscopic knee surgery later in the summer.
“There is going to be some restrictions on what I can do because they don’t want to overwork me too early. It’s a long season. There will be some restrictions but there won’t be restrictions in the game on Sunday.”
Urlacher also said his knee will “never be the same” … and it is worth noting he retired after the completion of the 2012 season.
Now let’s circle back to Hicks, who should be commended for wanting to play a game when he feels healthy enough to do so. I admire his gumption, as well as the passion he brings to the field, and his willingness to play in a game that is — in the grand scheme of things — meaningless for the Bears. In an era where it is easy to check out and chalk it up to load management, Hicks is the exception to the modern rule and a leader whose teammates are willing to battle for on the field. So, what are we even talking about here? The easy decision is right there in front of the Bears, right? Well.
The Bears don’t have anything to play for beyond the next two games of 2019, but that doesn’t mean that should throw caution to the wind and play with fire ahead of the 2020 campaign. Because while I understand Nagy wanting to be all-systems-go for games against a legitimate Super Bowl contender (Chiefs) and a playoff hopeful that could be playing for seeding or even a division title (Vikings), it was Nagy who already set the bar high in valuing the next season’s worth of games of consequence above non-consequential games. Going against that logic would be hypocritical, not to mention risky business for the 2020 team.
Indeed, there comes a point where the team needs to think about the big picture and protect a player from himself. After all, there were multiple occasions in which Hicks left the game and appeared to be in pain because the elbow injury that sent him to injured reserve in the first place was getting re-aggravated. That alone should be enough to inform the Bears that Hicks isn’t 100 percent. Therefore, the wise decision would be to thank him for his service, then shut him down.