Chicago Bears with playoff experience share their wisdom
The majority of Bears, like Pro Bowl CB Kyle Fuller, can only imagine what the playoffs are like because they’ve never actually experienced them.
“You can kind of … you have a feel for what to expect,” Fuller said. “Just faster game, a little bit more physical, and the intensity will be greater, which you should expect.”
But DL Akiem Hicks and Prince Amukamara are among the Bears veterans who can tell their teammates from firsthand experience what the postseason is like.
“Everything’s on the line,” said Hicks, who played in the postseason with the Saints in 2013 and the Patriots is 2015. “It’s do or die. If you’re not there to play, then you’ll be packing your black bag early, and it’s never fun. Guys (around the league) had to pack their black bags (Monday), and I couldn’t imagine having that feeling again, knowing we have the type of team that we have.”
In his first two years with the Bears, Hicks experienced the ritual of stuffing his Halas Hall locker belongings into the aforementioned black, plastic garbage bags a day after the regular season ended.
Amukamara did likewise in each of the previous six seasons following his rookie season of 2011, when he was a member of the Super Bowl-winning Giants, where he played his first five seasons.
“One thing that’s obvious is that it’s one and done,” Amukamara said. “And the margin for error is very, very small. All the records are out of the window. It doesn’t matter if you’re 12-4 (like the Bears) or 9-7 (like the Eagles). All that matters is that you got in.
“My first year with the Giants, we got in by the skin of our teeth, we got in at 9-7 and (got) hot and just kept rolling. The last thing is everybody takes their game to the next level. The intensity is higher, the crows are louder, the field’s a little bit harder, and the weather here is going to be a little bit colder. So everything just intensifies by that much more.”
Even though Amukamara has some playoff experience to draw from, he can empathize with Bears fans who haven’t been to a postseason party since after the 2010 season.
“I’m in the same boat,” he said. “Last time I was in the playoffs was my rookie year, and that was seven years ago. I’m going through the same thing. I know how hard it is to get here. I know how much work it takes to get here.
“But we’re a team that’s not just excited to be in it. We have a lot of goals that are still yet to be accomplished.”
Hicks has cautioned his less-playoff-experienced teammates to seize the opportunity they’ve been presented with because it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“Any time you step into the playoffs, especially for older guys, you have an appreciation for what it takes to get here,” Hicks said. “You’ve got to have a real appreciation for being in this moment — it’s always going to be valuable.”
And Hicks agrees with Amukamara that this Bears team is not one to coast just because it’s achieved the initial goal of making the postseason.
“You’ve done all this work to get to this point,” Hicks said. “There’s no reason to let up now. We’ve put ourselves in positions and put ourselves under stress to come into these playoffs and feel like we can handle it.”
The Week 17 game in Minneapolis had a playoff feel to it, and the Bears excelled in that crucible.
Sunday against the Eagles should be like that – only more intense.