I was shocked when I read Vaughn McClure’s post in the Chicago Tribune’s Huddle Up blog today. “Chicago Bears Devin Hester willing to give up punt returns, just not immediately” read the headline. Could it be? Is the Ridiculous One, the incomparable Devin Hester ready to step down?
“I think a return man simply has to be a return man,” Hester said. “There’s really no other position he should go out and play. A return man is a totally different ball game from trying to be a return man and starting receiver, or the starting cornerback, or a starting safety. I don’t think it’s going to work. That’s why you never really see it last that long in the NFL. You can’t do it. But with me right now, I feel like at punt returns there are going to be opportunities where we’re going to need big returns,” he continued. “With all the success we’ve had at the return game, it would be real crazy to just give it up now. Plus I’m looking to break this record. In the back of my mind, I’ve got to get this record before I give (punt returns) up.”
Who says players aren’t aware of records??? McClure reminds us that Devin sits only 2 returns behind record holder Brian Mitchell, tallying 11 kick returns for TD’s, not counting the electric return at the start of Super Bowl XLI or the missed FG that he returned against the Giants. Devin goes on to say:
“Me being partially the guy last year and doing returns, it was real tough on me,” he said. “It’s a tiring thing. You’re running eight, nine plays in a row and you’re going deep. Then you come back on punt returns, kickoff returns, and you don’t have any juice back there. It’s a beast. You see guys show glimpses of it, but they never had a full return game. Look at Deion Sanders, a great returner, but you never saw him take over the full job as punt returner and kickoff returner. You can’t do it. Steve Smith (Carolina) came in as a great kickoff/punt returner. Now that he’s got that role at receiver, he didn’t have any juice (to return). It’s tough.”
When I was lucky enough to meet Devin at his Old Spice Youth Camp over the weekend, I asked him if he thought he needed to change his theme song, if Soulja Boy’s Crank That had lost some of the magic last season, as Devin failed to bring one back to the house for the first season in his three year career. Devin politely declined to respond to my silly blog question and kept me on point, only answering questions about the camp.
In a weird way, this “announcement” reminds me of the scene in Rocky III, when Rocky announces that he’s going to step down as champ to the shocked and gasping crowd, only to have Clubber Lang call him out and challenge him to defend his title.
Has Devin lost that eye of the tiger? His quotes might suggest that he needs to get Apollo Creed (or mentor Deion Sanders in his case) and go back to the beginning, get back that hunger, that eye of the tiger. So I’m suggesting that Devin adopt Eye of the Tiger as his new theme song to bring his return game and the Bears back to their championship ways!