- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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New Atlanta Falcons return man Devin Hester didn't like it when the NFL moved kickoffs up from the 30 to the 35-yard line. He certainly won't be pleased if those kickoffs are moved again to the 40-yard line, as proposed by the competition committee.
The proposal is a safety precaution, and it would no doubt increase the number of touchbacks.
"Well hopefully, that rule doesn't come about until three or four more years," Hester, 31, said with a laugh. "And from that point on, I won't have to worry about anybody breaking my records. So that's what I'm hoping for.
"But as of right now, where it's at now, I think last year I came off my career high of yardage (1,436 kickoff return yards on a career-high 52 kickoff returns). I don't think it's slowing me down or any part of that. I'm just focusing on catching the ball coming forward. ...I'm putting the ball at the 28-, 29-yard line. I know the offense would rather start at the 28, 29 than the 20-yard line."
The Falcons signed Hester to a three-year contract worth $3 million per season with the expectation of him being dynamic on both kickoff and punt returns. He holds the NFL record with 18 kick return touchdowns and also is tied for the NFL record with mentor Deion Sanders with 19 career return touchdowns of all sorts.
Hester, who sees a chance to compete for the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl with the Falcons, considered Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, and Miami, but Atlanta showed the most interest -- and, no doubt, the most money. After spending eight years with the Chicago Bears and fighting the elements outdoors at Soldier Field, he now gets to play half his games inside the Georgia Dome.
Playing in a dome should only help his return game.
"I love it, man," Hester said. "I don't want to say what I love about it, because then teams are going to avoid it. I learned not to give all my secrets away because they start picking up on stuff like that."
Although Hester expects to have a little "splash" of offense in his duties, the emphasis will be as a return man. He was exclusively a returner last season with the Bears.
"I'm a hype guy," he said. "I want to get the crowd involved in this phase of the game. I think special teams is a key asset to the ballgame as far as field position, putting points on the board, and setting the momentum of the game. I'm going go in there and I'm going to do my best to bring excitement and help this offense with field position, and try to put points on the board as well."