‘Teddy bear’ Hicks ejected for making contact with official
Well, that never happens with Bears football.
The offense finally arrived — at least for one game on a perfect fall day at Soldier Field that saw the home team pound Tampa Bay 48-10 — and another oddity took place too. Akiem Hicks, as likable and as gentle as any 6-foot-5, 332-pound man around, got ejected from an NFL game on Sunday.
“Akiem is a teddy bear,” Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “He’s an awesome man. Great teammate. It was just a bad situation that happened today.”
Hicks may play with grizzly-bear ferocity, but he doesn’t put his large paws on NFL officials. Yet, after Eddie Jackson intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third-and-19 pass at the Bears’ 18-yard line late in the first half with the hosts up 35-3, Hicks engaged with a Buccaneers player. An official tried to play peacemaker, and Hicks made contact with him.
Hicks was disqualified from the game and, by league rules, ordered to leave the field. As he headed to the locker room, he threw his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands.
“This is the way it was relayed to me,” referee Jerome Boger said. “The down judge (Mike Carr) was breaking up a skirmish between two opposing players, and after he got the players separated, No. 96 (Hicks) came back and charged through him and pushed him.”
Boger called Hicks’ actions “deliberate.”
“That doesn’t sound like him to me,” Bears rookie defensive tackle Bilal Nichols said of his teammate.
Hicks wasn’t around to talk to reporters after the game. That never happens with the friendly Bear either.
A seventh-year defensive tackle out of Regina, Hicks does not have a reputation of being dirty or disrespectful.
“Absolutely not,” rookie linebacker Roquan Smith said.
Hicks led the Bears in sacks last year with 8 and notched his third in four games this season in the opening quarter.
“I have no clue what happened (on the ejection),” Smith said. “He’s definitely a leader on this defense. His style is very physical and he makes a lot of plays.”
And Hicks has meant a lot to a lot of young Bears. He has regularly praised Floyd since the Bears drafted the raw linebacker in the first round of out Georgia two years ago. Hicks has similarly spoken highly of other young players on the Bears defense.
He might be the least likely player to get ejected from a game for shoving an official. After the Bears’ third win in four games, it was other Bears’ turns to speak well of Hicks.
“He’s been a great mentor for me,” Nichols said. “Akiem has truly helped me elevate my game in ways I can’t even explain. He’s that guy I can talk to about things even when it’s off the field. He always holds me to a high standard, and I really appreciate Akiem.”
The defense didn’t relent with Hicks out. The Bears came up with two more interceptions after halftime, giving them eight on the season to equal their season total of each of the last three years. Their 2 sacks in each half hiked their season total to 18.
They need their big No. 96, however.
“It’s an emotional game, and he knows that he can’t do that, and he’s apologetic,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of Hicks. “We’ve got to handle it. That’s the rule. Akiem will be fine with it. We’ll talk to him, teach him and learn from it.”