We decided to do a countdown to the Chicago Bears season opener on September 8th versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Thanks to one of our Twitter followers, we decided to combine the countdown with a roster preview of sorts.
Just like a Devin Hester punt return, if you blink, you might miss the start of the Bears season, which is just 23 days away! Let’s see what 2013 has to bring for the Bears return specialist.
Perhaps no other player on the Bears roster has had a more up and down offseason than Devin Hester. Do you remember when Lovie Smith was fired? Hester sulked and threatened retirement. Now, with Marc Trestman and Joe DeCamillis in place and Hester focused solely on special teams, he’s re-energized and ready to start bringing back kicks and punts.
In case you’ve lived under a rock (or you just want a re-fresher), the Bears drafted Devin Hester in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft out of Miami. Hester became an instant sensation and took the league by storm. In his rookie season, he returned 3 punts, 2 kickoffs and a missed extra point for touchdowns, leading the Bears all the way to the Super Bowl, where he returned the opening kick for a score.
Hester built upon his successful rookie campaign with another stellar season in 2007 with 4 punt returns and 2 kick returns. He added 2 more TD’s as a wide receiver. That’s where things started to go awry for Hester. Following the 2007 season, Hester insisted on a contract extension. Jerry Angelo and the braintrust acquiesced and gave Hester a monster $40 million deal including escalators for his performance as a wide receiver.
As Hester worked with the offense, his performance in the return game suffered, getting shut out in 2008 and 2009. People thought he was done as a returner. Not so fast, as Hester returned to prominence in 2010 with three punt returns for touchdowns and becoming the league’s all time return leader in 2011 when he added two more punt returns and a kick return. 2012 was another season of struggles in the return game despite having less involvement in the offense with Brandon Marshall’s addition.
For Hester, it’s now all about special teams, where he might even try to block kicks or become a gunner. Most importantly, he needs to bring the ball to the house to justify his contract and a roster spot as a specialist only. I think Hester makes the team and has a resurgence, but I don’t know if he’s long for the Bears plans beyond 2013. He’s in the final year of his deal and if he only plays special teams, I just don’t see him settling for a returners paycheck. It will be really interesting to see what happens with him after this season if he has the kind of bounceback season I’m expecting.
I’m calling for 4 punt returns and 1 kick return for a TD in 2013. What do you think? How many touchdowns for Hester in 2013? Will the best return man in league history be back with the Bears in 2014? Soak up the awesomeness of Devin Hester’s 19 return TD’s. I dare you to turn it off. I betcha can’t. You even get the fake return that Johnny Knox should have gotten for a TD had it not been for a phantom penalty.
Devin Hester, YOU ARE RIDICULOUS!!!!
Other notable 23’s in Bears history include Jerry Azumah, Marty Carter and Shaun Gale.
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