A new challenge would face Hester in the 2011 season and beyond. The NFL passed a rule that pushed the point for kickoffs to the 35-yard line. This was done in hopes of helping to keep players from getting injured on kick returns but that meant that more kicks would land in the end zone as touchbacks. It also meant less return opportunities for Hester.
The record for the all-time career lead in punt returns for touchdowns fell in October of 2011. Hester eclipsed that number with 11 breaking Eric Metcalf’s record. Hester grabbed additional returns for touchdowns that season increasing his lead.
Prior to the start of the 2012 season, the coaching staff and general manager stated that Hester’s role would be reduced on offense. They said he would be brought in on certain special plays. During the next season, Hester caught just 23 passes and had just one touchdown. He did not have any returns for a touchdown in 2012.
After head coach Marc Trestman was hired, Hester was put on full-time return duties. He did some success following the move. He broke the record for the most return yards in a game (249) against division rival Minnesota. Against the New York Giants, he surpassed Glynn Milburn for the most kickoff return yards in Bears’ history. Hester earned his 19th return for a touchdown, against the Washington Redskins, which tied Deion Sander’s career record.
In 2014, the Bears chose not to bring Hester back. It was the end of an electric era for the Bears and for Hester.