(670 The Score) A year ago at this time, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was being called, with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio saying he didn’t see Fuller “champing at the bit” to return from a knee procedure.

With so much unknown in place, the Bears decided to decline Fuller’s fifth-year option, making him a free agent at the end of this season. Fuller has responded with a strong season, posting an interception and 16 pass breakups on the year. The Bears may have done Fuller a favor by letting him test the open market in the coming months.

Bears teammate Akiem Hicks sees what Fuller has done this season, and he vouched for Fuller’s return when he spoke on Monday with the Mully & Hanley Show on Monday morning, a day after the Bears’ 33-7 win over the Bengals.

“I wish we had gotten that fifth-year option so he couldn’t go nowhere,” Hicks said of Fuller. “What I’ll say is this: Kyle Fuller’s a great player, a really good guy in the locker room. He’s been dominant this year. I really hope we find a way to keep him around. And he’s definitely going to have options as a free agent. I just know that he’s one of those players you can really count on and you want on your side when everything’s going wild.”

Perhaps it was the words of Fangio that lit a fire under Fuller, who missed all of last season on injured reserve after the August knee procedure. Perhaps it was not being appreciated enough by the Bears’ management that got Fuller playing inspired football.

What’s clear is that Fuller is a motivated player this season.

“Vic will shoot you straight,” Hicks said. “As a player, you always expect a lot out of yourself. What others see or feel about you, you can’t let creep into your mind very much. Kyle Fuller, he knows he can play this game at a high level, and he’s done everything this year to show what type of a player he is.

“I’m sure that upstairs, guys are appreciating him a lot more than they did previously.”

The Bears (4-9) finally got off the schneid with their win Sunday. They had lost five straight games, and the losing was wearing down the team.

“You get really tired of being close,” Hicks said. “You get sick of it. You’re saying, ‘What am I missing or what are we doing to not put us over that hump – to stop us from executing that one more play?’ It gets frustrating. It starts to weigh on you, even though you don’t want it to.

“It feels really good once you get it off your shoulders. We’re in a better place. We got three more here to lay it on the line. It’s not off your shoulders yet, but we’re in a good position.”