Hicks' Time in Chicago Cut Short

As late as Tuesday Skip Hicks was listed as the Bears second running back behind James Allen. However, that didn't stop Chicago from releasing him Wednesday. The team quickly signed running back Autry Denson to take Hicks roster spot. The Bears waived Hicks because he lacked a special teams presence.

"The third running back has to be a special-teams player," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "We felt that Autry probably has offered us more in that area. He was a kickoff returner, a good cover guy and we felt that he could probably do more without the ball than what Skip could."

Calling Hicks the third back means somewhere along the line Anthony Thomas became the teams number two back despite missing the last three preseason games with a bruised knee. Angelo admits there was a bit of a gamble in the move with Denson not knowing the offense and Thomas is not completely healthy as he was listed as probable for the season opener.

"There's some risk to it," Angelo said. "But Anthony has been cleared to play, he's had a good week, and he looks fine. Is he totally up to speed? No. James (Allen) is ready to go. There's going to be a crash course with Autry. He's been in training camp, and he's ready to play physically. We'll get him up to speed, enough where if something were to happen, he can go in there and show us something."

The timing of the move was questionable considering final roster cuts were made on Sunday. Despite a reputation for not running between the tackles because a lack of toughness he was the only Bears back to play in all four preseason games, while gaining 166 yards on the ground.

The Bears claim Hicks was held out of practice Wednesday because of a mild hamstring pull, but no injury settlement was reached when he was waived.

In the end Angelo said it was a football decision. "We liked Skip. Skip earned a spot on this football team," Angelo said. "This had nothing to do with disliking (Hicks)."

The two parties didn't part on the best of terms, at least from Hicks' end. His agent, Howard Silber, said did not appreciate the move according to an article in Daily Southtown.

"I think after this there have to be some serious questions about whether the Chicago Bears honor their commitments," Silber said. "In all honesty, I'd have to think long and hard before I could recommend them to another player. I think there already were some serious questions among people about the integrity of this organization."

Hicks was very unhappy about the situation, according to Silber. Silber said Hicks' words to him were: "Why did they bother wasting my time?"

"This isn't like the Cade McNown situation when he was cut after he was given a chance," Silber said. "Skip was never given a chance. If they were going to do this, they should have saved themselves the modest $35,000 signing bonus they gave him and not signed him at all, or they should have just released him at the beginning of camp rather than wait till now, a few days before the season."

Hicks was not an Angelo signing. The Bears GM continues to move for players that he is familiar with. Denson was drafted with the Bucs in the seventh round in 1999. But Denson was cut and signed with Miami, where he rushed for 206 yards on 59 carries over two seasons.

"We had watched Autry play and we felt he was a better fit for what we wanted to do offensively," Angelo said. "We thought he could do more things without the ball."

The 5-foot-10-inch, 203-pounder recorded eight special-teams tackles in two years and returned 20 kickoffs for 495 yards (24.7 average) in 2000.

Silber said, "teams are dying to talk" with him about signing Hicks and he was correct. Hicks signed with the Titans on Thursday.


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