By Brent Schwartz, CBS Boston Sports
BOSTON (CBS) — As the 2016 Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl LI victory at Robert Kraft’s mansion, a member of the 2015 team who scooted away to the Bears looks back with no regrets. Former Patriots defensive end Akiem Hicks admitted as much in a new interview with the Chicago Sun Times’ Mark Potash.
“Not in the slightest,” said Hicks when asked if he regretted his decision to leave the Patriots. “Because one of the reasons I came here [to Chicago] was … a chance to rebuild. I had a chance to be a part of something growing. Being a prominent player [on the Patriots], I enjoyed that aspect of it. I think it’s going to benefit me going forward.”
After a successful 13-game run with the Patriots in 2015, Hicks declined an offer from the Patriots and darted for a better offer from the Bears during the 2016 offseason. He signed a two-year, $10 million contract with a club that went 3-13, while the Patriots won Super Bowl LI.
Still, Hicks expressed no jealousy toward his former team.
“I was happy for them,” Hicks said. “You want to be in that position, but you can never be mad at someone else’s success. They were on Instagram at their [Super Bowl] ring party. It makes you envious; it makes you want it more.”
The 6-foot-5, 336-pound Hicks was picked by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. After a few seasons with the Saints, he was shipped to the Patriots for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui early in the 2015 season. In New England, Hicks contributed 21 tackles, three sacks, and even scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery against the Tennessee Titans.
However, despite playing for the Patriots during their unfulfilled (by their standards) 2015 campaign that was sandwiched between two Super Bowl-winning seasons, Hicks seems happy with the rebuilding Bears. In the interview with Potash, Hicks talked about his hopes for the Bears to reach a championship level of success.
“Seeing any team succeed at the highest level should motivate you if you’re a competitor,” Hicks said. “I’m not a Golden State fan — Laker Nation all day — but watching them succeed, it makes you say, ‘Man, I want that feeling. I want to be in the locker room with my guys, throwing champagne in the air and spitting it out, like Kevin Durant did.'”
As for the Patriots, they’re doing OK without Hicks in the interior of their defensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch and 2015 first-round pick Malcom Brown finished second and third among all defensive tackles in run-stop percentage. Branch took on a bigger role for the Patriots in 2016, and New England rewarded him with a two-year, $12 million dollar extension in March, which is more lucrative than the two-year deal Hicks signed with the Bears.
Hicks may eventually be part of a championship roster in Chicago, especially if 2017 second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky becomes a franchise signal-caller. But it’s hard to believe that missing out on a Super Bowl in New England didn’t leave Hicks with at least a shred of disappointment.