Akiem Hicks joins Bucs for ‘chance to win’

For the second time in his professional career, Akiem Hicks joined a team led by Tom Brady. This time it was voluntary.

Hicks made Florida the fourth stop on his decade-plus NFL journey when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the first day of June. On Tuesday, he took to the training ground with his new teammates for the first time as the team opened a three-day minicamp. He needed no introduction to Brady; he played 13 games with the former New England Patriots quarterback in 2015. The first seven were wins.

Hicks landed with the Brady Patriots via trade from his original team, the New Orleans Saints, three games into this 2015 campaign. Notably, his first three-plus seasons in the league were also spent with the alongside one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Drew Brees. After his brief stint in Foxborough, Hicks signed with the Chicago Bears in 2016 and remained in the Windy City for six seasons. It’s fair to say he didn’t encounter the same level of quarterback play on his third save as he did on his first two.

It’s also fair to say that Hicks is happy to be back on the same side as Brady.

“One thing I often thought about was when I came to the league I had Drew Brees and Tom Brady as my first two quarterbacks,” Hicks said Tuesday. “And then I went to Chicago – it wasn’t Drew Brees and Tom Brady, let me just say that right? I feel spoiled to have someone on the other side of the ball who can deliver everything time, and he has proven it over the years.”

The Buccaneers certainly felt that effect. They were 7-9 in 2019, their 12th straight season that ended before the playoffs. Brady signed with the Buccaneers in 2020 and they have since won 29 of 39 games, a Super Bowl championship and, separately, their First Division title since 2007. Brady, soon to be 45, briefly flirted with retirement after the La The Bucs’ 2021 playoff series ended but opted in March to return for at least the 2022 season. That had a noticeable effect on Tampa Bay’s ability to retain many of its free agents, and it certainly played a role. in Hicks’ rapprochement with a Bucs team that has more Super Bowl aspirations. Hicks, who became a free agent in March, had conversations with several potential suitors around the NFL, but picked Tampa for the bottom line…rankings, that is.

“One of the biggest things that brings me to Tampa is a chance to win,” he said. “I would say I’m happy to be here, happy to be back with Tom. I know in that quarterback position you always have a chance of winning a game with a guy like that. was one of the reasons to be here; also, all the weapons we have in defense.

“[Brady] was definitely a draw. I would say it benefits a defense to have a quarterback who can control the clock, the ball and the position on the field, and that’s what we have here.”

Hicks made the playoffs in 2013 with the Saints, his only campaign as a Patriot, and two of the last four years in Chicago, but has yet to play on the league’s biggest stage. The 2015 Patriots made the AFC Championship game, but it was the only season in five years (2014-18) that New England did not reach the Super Bowl. There is of course no guarantee that the Buccaneers will return to the championship game in 2022, but with Brady in the fold, they will certainly be seen as a worthy contender. At the very least, Hicks thinks he’s joining a team that knows how to win.

“I’ll give you a treat that I had today in practice on this field here,” Hicks said after his first practice with the Bucs. “I heard some defense guys chirping [at] the guys on defense and trying to get them to play better, to motivate them. And I think it’s a winning culture. When you look around and someone scolds you or criticizes what you’ve done, and you’re able to take that and try to be better, I think that’s the winning culture and I saw some of it today.”

Hicks essentially replaces Ndamukong Suh in the Bucs’ defensive line boardroom, and he and rookie Logan Hall will likely absorb the roughly 1,100 defensive snaps Suh and Steve McLendon provided last year. Hicks said he’s never been concerned with the number of specific snaps and isn’t yet sure how he fits into the Bucs’ defensive scheme. He’s not aiming to be another Suh, but the Bucs know Hicks was often dominant during his six years in Chicago.

“I’m just going to be myself, play hard, play hard,” Hicks said. “That’s one of my talents, being able to push the pocket, work a move, get a quick pass, play hard against the run. I’m just going to be me.”

And, hopefully, he’ll enjoy the win he anticipated by choosing to come to Tampa.

“I’m still getting to know people, I’m still learning my way,” Hicks said. “I didn’t know how to move around the building this morning. It’s a process, isn’t it, and a transition for me. I think having phone conversations with [Todd] Bowles and having conversations with other guys in the building I think [they are] good people, guys who know how to win, and that’s what I want to be. »

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