BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Strictly a special-teamer for the first time since the Chicago Bears drafted him in 2006, a confident Devin Hester said on Thursday he’s not feeling the pressure of having to perform in a contract year.
“For myself, I can’t speak for others, I’m more excited that this is my contact year,” Hester said. “I'd rather do my contract after the season is over, because the way I’m feeling now, I could boost my stock a whole lot from where it’s at now. I’m not really paying attention to the contract. I’d rather have mine after the season, because what I’m planning on doing this year is going to help me out.
“It’s more motivating than anything. You can tell that this offseason -- I went and trained with a cheetah. I’m looking to boost my stock up a little bit and after the season is over I’m looking for some great numbers.”
Hester had a frustrating 2012 season where he averaged 8.3 yards per punt return -- the third lowest total of his career. The Bears and new coaching staff spent the entire offseason trying to revitalize and re-energize Hester, who is no longer working with the wide receivers.
"I feel great,” Hester said. “I haven’t felt like this in a while. I’m very excited for the season, what’s at stake this year. I do feel like we do have a great chance to make a run for the playoffs as well as the Super Bowl. I’m more excited than a lot of guys this year coming in and hopefully having fun out there on the field.
"For me it’s a new environment, new coaches. Brought in some new players I think that can help out our team a whole lot. Other than that, it’s almost like going to college -- you see new coaches, new faces and things like that. I’m looking at it as a great opportunity to better ourselves this year and hopefully have a run for the Super Bowl."
Because of his specialized role, there has been some speculation that Hester could be in danger of failing to make the 53-man roster. The three-time Pro Bowler is set to earn a base salary of $1,857,523 and count $2,940,858 against the Bears’ salary cap.
“Right now I don’t really think about that,” Hester said. “I’m out here playing. I’m happy. I’m having fun. And when you get a happy Devin Hester, you don’t want to get rid of him. So ... that’s the way it is now.”