<
>

Black and Blue all over: Hester speaks

11/20/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Chicago kick returner Devin Hester ranks No. 57 in the NFL with a kickoff return average of 21.8 yards. His punt return average of 6.3 yards puts him at No. 51.

Hester has kept a mostly low public profile while compiling those pedestrian rankings this season, especially amid a transition to receiver that hasn't proved as explosive as the Bears would have hoped. But Hester spoke out this week, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Hester admitted he was frustrated but spoke realistically about culpability:

"It's tough. Not only to myself, to the fans, to the team. I set a high standard for myself, not only for myself, but outsiders, that I'm that guy that's going to take five, six returns to the house, and I haven't taken none. It's tough on me. I don't even like going outside now. I've just got to find that edge and overcome it. I could sit here and say it's my fault, but there are 11 guys out there on the field. I'm not the only one out there. I know at the end of the day I get blamed for the return game."

Some of this issue will have to wait until an offseason postmortem, but there's already a decent argument to be made that the Bears stripped themselves of a huge weapon by trying to apply Hester's game-breaking skills at another position. Instead of having a dynamic returner who makes occasional appearances on offense, they have an average returner and a below-average starting receiver.

That dynamic appears to have been tough on Hester's psyche:

"I've been trying to dodge talking about it, but now I'm going to go ahead and express my feelings. I'm frustrated. It's hard. And I want to get back to where I was, not only as a player but as the home-run hitter. The return game was basically my success in football, and now that it's not there, it's tough, being just that football player that everybody knew about."

It's hard to say what the answer is. With the return of Brandon Lloyd from injury, should the Bears go back to using Hester only in predetermined packages on offense? Or has the damage already been done in terms of focusing on the return game for this season?

Elsewhere around the NFC North on a Thursday morning:

  • Guard Terrence Metcalf rejoined the Bears after a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned amphetamine. Metcalf said he took the supplement to stay awake during a long drive this summer, according to Biggs.

  • Green Bay cornerback Al Harris has been particularly focused -- and a bit short-tempered -- since he returned from a lacerated spleen, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Harris will turn 34 next month and might be fighting for his football future in Green Bay.

  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he does not believe Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen was trying to hurt him with a helmet-to-helmet hit at the Metrodome two weeks ago, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. The NFL fined Allen $25,000 for the hit.

  • Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf will accompany defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to their appeal hearing Thursday at the NFL offices in New York, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.

  • Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield told Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune that he is having the best season of his career.

  • Detroit signed safety Stuart Schweigert, a former prep star in Saginaw, Mich. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press has details.

  • Lions coach Rod Marinelli is second-guessing himself for not signing quarterback Daunte Culpepper earlier this season, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com