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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Bears: On Devin Hester, Gabe Carimi

By Kevin Seifert

Our friends at ESPNChicago.com will have thorough coverage of the Chicago Bears' first day of voluntary minicamp, at least soon as they can navigate away from the construction zone at Halas Hall and find a place to write. In the meantime, I'll weigh in on two developments that advance themes we've been discussing for a while.

First, kick returner Devin Hester did not practice at all with the Bears' offense, working exclusively with the team's specialists. That represents the most extreme of the possibilities we discussed last month at the NFL owners meeting, where Trestman said Hester would primarily be a specialist when offseason practices began and left open the possibility that he would be removed from the offense entirely.

Trestman did tell reporters Tuesday that Hester's role could expand if and when he wins the returner's job. But to me, now is the time for players to set the foundation for learning an entirely new scheme. If the Bears really wanted Hester to be a part of their offense, it would make sense to expose him now so he is not starting from behind later this spring or summer.

Regardless, it's quite unusual for a returner to not even contribute as an extra body during practice. Former NFL player Matt Bowen tweeted after practice: "Hester didn't run a single route today. ST work only. I never played with a kick returner that didn't run drills with the O or D."

That creates a discussion we'll table for another day: Are the Bears prepared to use a gameday roster spot every week on a return specialist who provides no emergency depth elsewhere? I'm guessing yes, or else they would not have started down this road.

Meanwhile, Trestman said the team currently projects Gabe Carimi -- its first-round draft choice in 2011 -- as more of a guard rather than tackle.

Initially, at least, that suggests the Bears' new staff isn't too enthused about Carimi's future. He was drafted as a tackle, and at 6-foot-7, he certainly has the body type to be one. As ESPN's Matt Williamson explained to us last fall, a tall guard has a big challenge to establish leverage against shorter defensive tackles.

Carimi did some practice work at right tackle, but it appears the Bears prefer J'Marcus Webb to get work there, at least for now. There is a long time before the Bears have a practice that's worth drawing conclusions from, but Carimi certainly has his work cut out for him.