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?