As much of the NFL played Sunday, the Bears practiced at Halas Hall to prepare to host the Cowboys at Soldier Field on Thursday.
Here are three things we learned after their session indoors at the Walter Payton Center.
1. Akiem Hicks’ return to practice “sparks an excitement” in the Bears defense.
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was back on the practice field for the first time since he injured his left elbow against the Raiders on Oct. 6 and went on injured reserve.
Bears coach Matt Nagy said it was a “kick-back tempo type of practice,” so Hicks didn’t do a lot physically.
But defensive lineman Nick Williams said Hicks was pumped and so were his teammates. Hicks, who had six tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits over four games this season, has been around the team during his recovery, helping the players who have filled in for him. But having the presence of the Pro Bowler back on the field would be big for the Bears.
“Akiem is the big dog on the defensive line,” Williams said. “He’s very loud, passionate about his play, and you grow to admire it. You want to play that much more. You want to play much better in your game, so he’s a good asset to our team.”
Hicks can return to game action Dec. 15 against the Packers, and Nagy indicated his return wouldn’t be dependent on the Bears remaining in the playoff hunt. Nagy said he feels good about Hicks, but his status will be day by day.
“If Akiem is ready to play and ready to go for the Green Bay Packers game, then regardless of anything, we want him to be able to play,” Nagy said.
Hicks is expected to address the media Monday after practice.
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2. Mitch Trubisky aims to duplicate the timing and decision-making that sharpened his play against the Lions.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s performance Thursday on first down and after his third-quarter interception was exceptional, with respective passer ratings of 140.6 and a perfect 158.3. The quality of his decisions and rhythm of his timing stood out to coach Matt Nagy.
Granted, that success came against the Lions, who entered the game with the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense. So how does Trubisky repeat that against the Cowboys, whose pass defense ranks seventh?
Trubisky noted that he played so well against the Lions on a short week that included no full-speed practices. Instead, there were a lot of mental reps during walk-throughs.
“If we're locked in mentally, then that's how it translates to the field,” he said. “Everyone knowing their jobs. Me knowing the timing of the routes, knowing the spots, seeing the defense pre-snap and just playing fast and not thinking. We get it down mentally, go out there and play.”
Nagy senses Trubisky’s confidence building after a month of incremental improvement. He said Trubisky is in a “good mode.”
“I really like where he’s at, his mentality,” Nagy said. “It’s been kind of a reset where we’re not happy or getting complacent because of the last couple weeks being better. Let’s keep growing. It’s not where we want to be. We had a better day on offense (against the Lions). We still had our times where we could get better and improve, but let’s not be satisfied with where we’re at.”
3. Mitch Trubisky said wide receiver Anthony Miller is “working his tail off” to try to make an impact on the Bears offense.
Anthony Miller had a career-high nine catches for 140 yards against the Lions and has 15 catches for 217 yards over his last two games.
Mitch Trubisky said he believed the second-year wide receiver was “locked in mentally” during the short week between victories over the Giants and Lions.
“We put a lot on his plate, and he absolutely delivered,” Trubisky said. “Studying the game plan, just getting on the same page with me, communicating a lot throughout practice and figuring out that timing without actually having to go through it in practice. Hopefully we get some more reps this week and stay on the same page and keep communicating, and we could continue to target him and get him the football. And he’s going to make plays for this team.”