New Chicago Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is accustomed to winning.
He's played in four playoff games during his four-year NFL career, including the AFC Championship last season. He also spent most of last season with the New England Patriots, the league's winningest organization of the past 15 years.
Hicks said today his incentive to sign with the Bears, beyond the money, was that he sees a winning culture being built in Chicago.
"They have been and are still currently making great decisions in order to bring players and the coaching staff and everybody to this organization to build something great here in Chicago," said Hicks. "I’m a believer. I’ve seen some of the moves that they’ve made and I’ve seen the way that they’ve gone about business and I’m excited to be a part of that, and was excited from afar.
“It’s a team that’s building and working towards a goal and it’s bringing in pieces and blocks to be successful. I definitely enjoy being a part of that, being the beginning of something great here in Chicago.”
To that end, the Bears have added three new defensive starters the past five days: Hicks and linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. The club also re-signed CB Tracy Porter, who will again start at boundary corner.
With Trevathan and Freeman, the Bears landed the top two linebackers on the market, giving them arguably the best 3-4 ILB duo in the NFL, a fact not lost on Hicks.
"If you’ve got two great linebackers behind you, you should have a pretty good day on the defensive line," Hicks said.
Yet beyond the on-field talent, Hicks' previous relationship with GM Ryan Pace, who worked in the Saints' front office for three seasons while Hicks was in New Orleans, played a major role in his decision to sign with the Bears.
“I would say it was a great benefit having a relationship beforehand," said Hicks. "He's definitely one of the reasons that I considered making the visit to Chicago, and really one of the final reasons that I made my decision to become a Chicago Bear.”
Hicks also said the presence of coordinator Vic Fangio, who is widely regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the league, also swayed him in Chicago's direction.
"When I look at some of the players that he’s had in the past, I’d definitely say that I’m comfortable to that as far as my leverage and my length and my capability to play multiple positions," Hicks said. "If anything, I’m pretty excited to see how I will fare in his defense. He’s had a great track record of making successful defensive linemen and successful defenses as a whole. I’m just excited to be under his tutelage and to learn from a great mind in the NFL for a number of years."
He played 15 games for the Patriots last season under Bill Belichick, who is widely regarded as the best head coach in the league, one who is able to squeeze the most of any player. It was time well spent for Hicks.
"No. 1 thing I would say [I learned] would be accountability," said Hicks. "Being able to hold your players accountable for the job that they’re required to do, and that’s on and off the field. Being accountable to each other as far as teammates, knowing that your teammate has your back and will do everything in his power to make sure that you guys come out with the goal that you have in mind. Accountability would be the main message that I would share with anybody about my time in New England."
At 6-5, 326, Hicks brings size and strength to Chicago's defensive line and feels he fits well in Fangio's 3-4 system, wherever the coaching staff decides to play him.
“I am what my coaches decide that I am. I’m here to compete and I’m here to be a part of this team," he said. "I’m a hard worker. I believe in the process and I’m, ultimately, a team guy. I just believe in my team and will do anything and everything for a teammate and for us to come out each Sunday with a positive outcome."