<
>

The Hester debate rages on

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
I wanted to bring you an additional nugget from Brendon Ayanbadejo's interview with WMVP-AM radio in Chicago, the one we referred to earlier Tuesday morning.

Ayanbadejo became one of the first "football people" to acknowledge what some fans and media members suggested for much of the season: It was unreasonable for Chicago to ask Devin Hester to continue as an elite kickoff/punt returner while making him a full-time receiver.

(Ayanbadejo spent three seasons with the Bears before moving to Baltimore via free agency last winter.)

Here's the full text of what Ayanbadejo said Monday:

''You can't expect to have the best receiver in the league and the best returner in the league. It's such a specialized league. Just look at the Ravens -- we have three kickers. We have a guy who does kickoffs, a guy that does field goals and a punter. You're asking [Hester] to be the best punt returner in the league, the best kick returner in the league and the best receiver in the league? ... They asked a whole lot of Devin, which I thought was kind of unfair.''

We all know the story: The Bears eventually pulled Hester as a kickoff returner and he finished the season ranked No. 57 overall among NFL punt returners with a 6.7-yard average. Worse, his longest punt return was 25 yards. Hester did catch a career-high 51 passes on offense, tops among Bears receivers, but clearly reasonable people can debate whether that contribution was worth a decrease in special teams performance.

It will be interesting to watch the Bears' offseason relative to Hester. Will they carry the same plan into 2009, hoping that a year's worth of experience will make him more efficient in all areas? Should they abandon his special-teams role altogether? Or should they augment the receiving corps and reduce their dependence on Hester as an every-down wideout?