Keep Devin Hester on Punt-Return Duty

Taking the ball out of Hester's hands is a bad idea

By Eamonn Brennan
|  Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009  |  Updated 10:05 AM CDT
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Keep Devin Hester on Punt-Return Duty

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Devin Hester is a returner first. Here's hoping the Bears don't forget it.

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First of all, let's get one thing straight: Devin Hester can be a good receiver in the NFL.

He might never be a superstar, and he'll probably never go to a Pro Bowl, but few players in the entire league have his long run potential. Now he just needs to figure out the nuts and bolts, and the Bears' investment in his offensive future will have paid off.

The problem is that in the midst of Hester's transition to the wideout spot, the Bears -- and Hester himself -- have managed to forget just how good he is at returning kicks in the first place.

They got a reminder Sunday night.

Hester's 54-yard punt return in the first quarter of the Bears' win over the Broncos was classic Hester. He was fast, decisive, and uncatchable in the open field. (Hester also waved for a fair catch inside the five, which is also classic Hester, but we'll pretend that didn't happen for now.) It was the first time the Bears allowed Hester to return punts in the preseason, and it was incredibly encouraging return.

See, we're all for Hester trying his hand at wideout, but not at the expense of his legendary return ability. For a while, it appeared that was exactly what was happening; Hester said in the offseason that he didn't know whether he would return any more, that he had to focus on wideout responsibilities.

There are obvious financial reasons for Hester's interest in the position, and it's clear the Bears are dedicated to turning Hester's ability in the open field into something they can use more frequently, but why can't Hester do both? Kicks and punts aren't exactly complicated. They won't take away from time spent poring over routes.

Which is why it's not only good to see Hester returning well, but even returning at all. The Bears need to maximize his talent. Taking the ball out of Hester's hands on special teams plays is not that.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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