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Kickoff Changes Approved to Hester's Dismay

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 17: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears smiles after returning a punt 89 years for a touchdown in the 4th quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on October 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Devin Hester

    The NFL Network called Devin Hester's 2006 season the eighth-best individual performance in NFL history.

    In this highlight that you should really take the time to watch, the NFL lavished Hester with praise. They aired footage of Torry Holt calling him a game-changer, and pointed out that he was the Bears' second-leading scorer without actually playing on offense.

    Enjoy that highlight now, because the NFL owners voted to pass significant rule changes that will hamper Hester's ability to return kickoffs for touchdowns and big yardage gains. The ball will be kicked off from the 35-yard line, and coverage players only will be allowed a five-yard running start.

    The idea is encourage touchbacks and to reduce injuries, which often happen on special teams as two lines of men run straight at one another at full speed. Head and neck injures are more common on special teams plays.

    Hester talked about the rule changes on ESPN Radio Tuesday afternoon, and pointed out the odd dichotomy of the NFL changing rules to keep players healthy while proposing to add games.

    "They're trying to take away injuries, but they're just adding injuries by adding games," Hester said.

    Hester tweeted his issues with the rule changes Monday, and Bears coach Lovie Smith added his disapproval Tuesday. He doesn't believe that changing the kickoff spot is going to increase safety.

    Changing the positioning of coverage players makes sense, but the kickoff spot seems directly aimed at limiting Hester, who has 14 combined punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns, the league record. ESPN asked Hester if they could call these rules the Hester Rule.
     
    "I don't mind, because that's basically what it is," he answered.