The hardest part came on game days.
During last year's playoff run, Jordan Hicks still felt like he was one of the guys during the week. He was around the team, he could shoot hoops with them on the Pop-A-Shot hoop in the Eagles' locker room, they could go out to dinner, go to meetings and pretty much do most of the things he wanted with his teammates.
Except on Sundays.
"When it's game day, it's a different animal," Hicks said Friday. "When you're not dressing up, you really feel secluded in a way."
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After missing the entire playoff run a year ago and after recovering from a calf injury that kept him out for four games this season, the Eagles' 26-year-old linebacker is going to make his playoff debut this Sunday in Chicago. And after all he's been through, he's not going to take it for granted.
Adding to the drama is that every game from here on out could be his final game with the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2015 draft.
Hicks is set to become a free agent in March, although he tries his hardest to keep those thoughts from creeping into his head:
Obviously, the focus is on this game, at the end of the day. It's what it is. It has to be. The moment I start focusing on something else, I'm wrong. There's times where it tries to trickle in, but I try to block all that out. I owe it to this team to give it everything I have to this game Sunday.
It was one of the saddest moments of the season to date: I was on the field at the Superdome in New Orleans well after the butt-kicking was over and the locker room had cleared. Hicks was one of the last players to make the long walk across the field to where the Eagles' team buses were parked. He walked with a pronounced limp and wore a worried expression on his face.
The doctors gave Hicks a 4-6 week prognosis and Hicks made it his goal to make it four. Despite what he called some "flashback-y" feelings to last year, Hicks missed four games and returned two weeks ago against Houston.
Since returning a couple weeks ago, Hicks has played in a more limited role. He claims he's completely bought in to doing whatever the coaching staff wants of him, but said he felt like he really turned a corner from a health standpoint this week. He's feeling really good going into Wild Card Weekend.
Hicks made a point to say he was proud of the fact that he played in 641 consecutive defensive snaps to start the season. Injuries have really plagued his young career; he's played all 16 games just once in four seasons.
That inability to stay healthy will probably negatively affect his potential earnings when he hits free agency in a few months. It might also affect his likelihood of coming back to Philly if the Eagles feel like they can't depend on him.
But at least he doesn't have to watch these playoffs like last year.
"It's a hard position to be in," Hicks said. "And it's all about the desire to want to be out there and make a difference in the game."
He'll get that chance Sunday. And it might be his last chance as an Eagle.
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