Hicks on a hot streak

Maurice Hicks makes things happen when he touches the football. He only participated in two offensive plays last week, but he turned one into a 33-yard catch-and-run for the first receiving TD of his career. The third-year veteran currently is the NFC's leading kick returner with a 27.0 average, and here he talks about the finer details of returning kicks and making the most of his opportunities.

Q: How difficult is it to return a kickoff for a touchdown in the NFL?
Hicks
It's not easy. All those (coverage) guys are out there trying to make plays. There's always a chance to take one back, but in the NFL it's kind of slim. Lot of kickers are squibbing it or popping it up. When that happens, we just have to make the best of it.

Q: What kind of experience did you have returning kicks before you entered the NFL?
Hicks:
I didn't do it in college. I think I got put back there once we really needed to have a big return. I did it some in junior college.

Q: How have you dealt with having only one carry from scrimmage so far in the first five games of the season?
Hicks:
I'm a patient person. I know my time will come when coach decides to give me that load or wants to put the ball in my hands. Right now, when I get in, third down or whatever, on pass plays, I just try to make the best of it.

Q: Does that patience come from the fact you didn't get your first carry until the eighth game last season, but still finished the season with 308 yards rushing?
Hicks:
Yeah, I've been through it already. There's times they might just throw me in there. I just take it as always being ready, because you never know what will happen. I just stay in the (meeting) room and make sure I'm mentally ready as a player, because in the NFL, your number can be called at any time. Just like last game, coach decided to throw me in there.

Q: What's it say about your development as a kick returner that you're currently leading the NFC in that category?
Hicks:
It shows a lot of improvement. It's good to be up there on the top. It's not just me, though, it's the other 10 guys on the kickoff return team that are making it happen for me. They've been doing a great job of blocking. Sometimes, it seems like there's only one guy I've got to beat out there. It gives you confidence you're going to bust one sooner or later. You always develop a vision. The more I do, the better I get at it. You kind of see what's going to happen before it happens.

Q: What do you see when after the kickoff lands in your hands?
Hicks:
They're coming from different angles. It's a high tempo. Special teams kick returns, everybody is just flying.

Q: How does returning kicks compare to getting the ball in an offensive set?
Hicks:
Guys are spread out, and it kind of gives you an opportunity to find that hole, that crease, and get through there. As opposed to on the field, it's kind of cluttered inside there. You get enough space to build up speed on kickoffs. When you're running the ball, you have to kind of gain speed after you break through. But at kickoff, you're already at full tilt, full speed, and you can get it and make moves, and sometimes it's a lot harder for them guys to tackle you, because you're going so fast.

Q: So, Maurice, what's your secret returning kicks?
Hicks:
I'm always looking for that crease. I have a read on each kickoff return. There's always a read there, and if something breaks down, then I just go to my next step, where my vision needs to be.


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