As the offensive players broke for individual drills Tuesday at the Walter Payton Center on Day 1 of voluntary minicamp, Devin Hester stood on the sideline swinging his helmet alongside long snapper Pat Mannelly, kicker Robbie Gould and punter Adam Podlesh.
For right now, Hester can no longer call himself a Chicago Bears receiver. He's fine with that. So are the Bears.
“I'll make it clear because I've been asked a number of times," new Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Devin's gonna focus on being our returner. He's got to be the returner for him to be here. Once that's locked into place, which we expect that it will, then we'll see where it goes from there."
Asked at the NFL owners meetings in March whether Hester would practice with as a receiver during the offseason, Trestman expressed uncertainty, saying the matter hadn't yet been fully discussed. The coach left little doubt Tuesday about Hester's expected role.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Hester has caught 49 passes for 611 yards and two touchdown with the team looking for ways to give him more of a role on offense. Hester returned 40 punts last season for an 8.3-yard average, but didn't score a touchdown and also failed to find the end zone on any of his 24 kickoff returns in 2012.
The Bears hold a 13-4 record when Hester scores on a return.
“We made a collective decision organizationally. I've talked to the guys that have been here. (General manager) Phil (Emery) and I had a long conversation about it as well," Trestman said. “Just talking to Devin (I want to) let him get back to doing what he does best first. Then when that's all in place, we'll see if we need to or if we're in a position to be able to incorporate him in doing more things."
Set to earn $1.857 million in the final year of his contract, Hester isn't spending time in the meeting rooms with his fellow receivers, and he isn't learning the new offense. Instead, as a specialist, that's where he's spending all his time: with special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis.
“He'll spend all his time with Joe," Trestman said. “When we're in an offensive meeting, he'll be with Joe. He'll be with (long snapper) Pat. He'll be with Robbie and the kickers. He'll be spending time totally focused in on being the best returner in the National Football League."