That date has represented the earliest the Pro Bowl defensive lineman Hicks (elbow) could return after being placed on injured reserve in October and missing eight games, and it's upon him this Sunday, when the Bears visit the Packers. Hicks has been working through a grueling rehab with this game in mind.
"I knew it was coming and prepared accordingly," Hicks said. "One of the things I really focused on was just making sure my elbow was in the strongest place possible. We still have some finishing up to do, and there's all these dates to make gains and get a little bit better. Just working on that."
While trending toward a return Sunday, Hicks will first have to work through practice this week and display a readiness for game action. That will be decided after he likely gets increased live reps in practice.
The Bears have until 3 p.m. Saturday to activate Hicks from injured reserve.
"Each day try to stay positive, try to get stronger and see where it takes us by the end of the week," coach Matt Nagy said of Hicks. "But hopefully he’ll be ready to go."
A Pro Bowler in 2018, Hicks could return for the final three regular-season games as the Bears make a late playoff push against bleak odds. With the Packers (10-3), Vikings (9-4) and Rams (8-5) all winning Sunday, the Bears' playoff hopes dropped to 2%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Chicago knows it needs to win its final three games -- at Green Bay, vs. Kansas City and at Minnesota -- to have a chance to reach the playoffs, and having Hicks up front can only help.
"Isn't that beautiful?" Hicks said. "Just to see the adversity and the grit and the fight these guys had to go through. To be in this position at the end of the season, you have to take advantage of it."