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Thursday, September 18, 2008
Black and Blue all over: Hester's status cloudy


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The Chicago Bears aren't shedding much light on receiver/kick returner Devin Hester's mysterious rib injury.

Multiple media outlets have reported Hester suffered some sort of strain at Carolina. Tests revealed no broken bones, according to the reports, and it seemed likely he would play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Hester, however, was nowhere to be seen during practice Wednesday and coach Lovie Smith would only say: "Game time, if he's ready to go, he'll be on the field."

In the meantime, Danieal Manning worked on kickoff returns Wednesday and rookie Earl Bennett was one of the punt returners, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Nathan Vasher is another possibility as a punt returner.

Hester hasn't missed a game since joining the Bears in 2006, and for a team that relies so heavily upon its special teams for scoring, his availability is the biggest issue of the week.

Elsewhere around the NFC North this morning: