When Devin Hester first exploded on the scene with the Bears two years ago, comparisons to Bears legend and Hall of Famer Gale Sayers began immediately. It was kind of hard not to compare the two, after seeing the way Hester worked the open field and ran away from defenders on a routine basis just like Sayers made a habit of doing back in the 60's. Of course, as we're all aware of now, Hester hasn't been the Devin of while returning kicks for the Bears this season.
His ineffectiveness even has myself and other folks around the city wondering if the Bears would be better off having Danieal Manning returning kicks this weekend against the Rams. Still, Manning would be just a temporary fix. After the contract extension Devin signed before the season started, the Bears can't afford to just give up on him, so they're better off trying to figure out what's wrong.
There are many theories floating around as to why The Windy City Flyer is struggling -- learning how to play receiver has distracted him, he's conserving himself on returns so he can meet bonus qualifiers as a receiver, Brendon Ayanbedejo was the greatest special teams player to ever grace Earth and without him Devin is powerless -- but who is a better source than the man everyone was comparing Devin to?
Gale Sayers talked to the Chicago Tribune's Fred Mitchell and in his opinion, Hester is just afraid.
"He's running everything up the middle. [The Bears return team] might have a middle return on, but if every [defender] is going to the middle, he has enough speed to go outside. He's not doing it.
"He's running straight up the field and everybody is tackling him. He looks like he's afraid to go out on his own. A couple of times the other team would kick to the right and [Hester] would run to the right and run out of bounds. It's like he doesn't want to run the kickoffs back. Run to the left … you have the whole field!"
Sayers' assessment of Devin's returns is spot on, as Hester has spent way too much time dancing with the ball in his hands. Danieal Manning on the other hand just catches the ball and starts running straight up the field. It may not be as exciting as a Hester return, but it's a lot more effective right now.
Maybe Hester really is just scared. Scared of getting hurt, or scared of failing to meet the lofty expectations Bears have for him, whatever it is, it's time for Devin to face his fears and get back to playing football like we all know he's capable of.