MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 9: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears looks on during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 9, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
When Lovie Smith was fired, Devin Hester talked about retirement. With Marc Trestman in as the new head coach, Hester is part of the Bears' plans, but with a twist. Trestman sees Hester as a return man only.
The Bears' new head coach talked about Hester's new role. Instead of splitting time as a receiver and a kickoff and punt return man, Trestman wants Hester to focus on special teams and spend with special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.
"We had this long discussion of just starting with him, making sure that he would be the returner that we need to have," Trestman said this week. "That's the No. 1 thing. That's hopefully what he'll go to the Hall of Fame as. It's making sure we get the most out of him and then see where he goes from there."
In his rookie, breakout year as a kick return man, Hester was barely used as a receiver. With his focus in one place, he could use his speed to give the Bears an edge on special teams.
But as he evolved into a mediocre receiver, he lost his edge as a return man. In 2008 and 2009, Hester had more than 600 yards receiving, but no return touchdowns.
If Hester were a good, reliable receiver, it would make sense to have him stick with offense only. But he's not. He was targeted 40 times in 2012, and caught just 23 of those passes. His routerunning hasn't improved with age, and he's often out of position.
Hester is a once-in-a-generation return man. It makes sense for the Bears to use him that way.