The Chicago Bears and Devin Hester appear to be headed for a divorce. While many fans may be upset that the Bears let go of one of the, if not the greatest kick returner in NFL history it is time to say goodbye. This would end a tremendous era of kick returns combined with a failed experiment at wide receiver.
Devin Hester burst onto the scene in his first NFL game returning a punt for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field in 2006. The 2006 season would be special not only for the Chicago Bears, but Devin Hester as well. Hester and the Bears would advance to Super Bowl XLI. Though the Bears lost that game, Hester returned the opening kick off for a touchdown–something that no one had ever done before.
It was the 2008 season that saw the beginning of the end for Hester. At this point the Bears made the mistake of attempting to turn Hester into a wide receiver. With this change Hester’s numbers began to dwindle dramatically in the return game. The Bears also made a major mistake in giving Hester a contract that called for him to be the Bears top receiver. A spot that Hester could not and would not attain.
While Hester would have a rare brief glance of the player he once was, the focus on wide receiver destroyed a the mentality Hester once had as a pure returner. 2012 would prove to be the worst year of Hester’s career. After publicly lobbying for more time as a wide receiver Hester found himself buried on the depth chart. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler clearly had no confidence in Hester as a wide receiver and refused to throw the ball in his direction.
On kick returns Hester looked like a mere shell of his former self. What made him so dangerous as a kick returner was Hester’s fearlessness and ability to find a hole where there was none. Hester looked tentative and began to dance to attempt to create spots to return a kick. This resulted many short returns and a couple of near safeties on poor decisions. At the end of the season the Bears decided to part ways with long time head coach Lovie Smith. Hester took this decision really hard and was considering retirement. While reporters attempted to interview Hester following the teams last meeting with coach Smith, Hester refused to really look at reporters. Hester had this to say when he did decide to talk , “I don’t even know if I want to play again, man,” Hester said. “You know, that’s been on my mind for two years now.” “It’s not as much fun anymore. It ain’t. So, I have my workers’ comp papers in my pocket. See how I feel, go home and talk to my wife, my family. See where we go from there. I’ve got two beautiful kids, man, young. Two boys. A lot of stress has been on my mind lately.”
Those are the words of a defeated man. How can you bring back a guy that acts like that knowing full well that the NFL is a business and these things happen all the time. Not to mention that the Bears have a cheaper effective option in wide receiver Eric Weems. Between the massive drop off in production, and the cry baby statements may have turned the city of Chicago against Devin Hester.
Fans who once arose, and went crazy just seeing number 23 hit the field no longer seem to care. The fans have had no reason to get that buzz that once use to hit Soldier Field as it was getting close to a kick off or a punt knowing Hester was back there. You see people try to get excited only to see Hester do nothing once again. It has been said that all good things must come to an end.
It appears that time has arrived when it comes to the Bears and Devin Hester. Do I believe that Hester’s NFL career is over? No, I do not. Some team will take a chance on him, seeing Hester as a reclamation project. That is if Devin Hester does not decide to retire first..