LAKE FOREST, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — While the Bears defense has managed to excel without Akiem Hicks it’s no secret his presence on the playing field has been missed. The veteran defensive lineman returned to practice Sunday for the first time since dislocating his elbow and being placed on the IR in October. He practice again on Monday. While he was out Hicks never stayed far from the team. He stayed involved in meetings, practices, and any other ways that he could.

“It speaks volumes to who Akiem is, how he’s decided to stay around and be seen everyday, all the time,” said head coach Matt Nagy.

“So it’s important that even though I was unable to compete and even practice, it was impotant for me to stay around the guys so I still felt like I’m doing my day-to-day routine,” said Hicks.

The soonest Hicks is eligible to return to play is December 15th when the Bears take on the Packers at Lambeau Field. Right now he says his elbow feels a lot better. The deciding factor on whether or not Hicks officially returns will be his conditioning.

“Nobody in the NFL right now is at 100%, alright?, said Hicks. “And I look forward to going back out there and competing at a level that I can be proud of. So I’m going to approach this week and that week as I should.”

Regardless of how rusty he could be the Bears know to have Hicks back at all would still be a game-changer.

“He’s a dominant player that any offense that plays our defense, when he’s in the game, they have to know where he’s at,” said Nagy.

“When all know what a game-wrecker he is when he’s in there,” said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. “He just changes things. He changes the game.”

While the process to getting back on track hasn’t been easy. Hicks is just grateful he’s where he’s at now.

“I’m a guy that I’ll grab whatever dumbbells in the weight room and to go into treatment and not be able to lift more than 2, 3, 4, 5 pounds after getting back from London, it was a different feeling. It was very humbling. It makes you think what people go through that don’t have an arm or that are missing something. It puts things in perspective. Wow, yeah. It’s good to be here now.”