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Muhsin Muhammad would have liked to have one more season to mentor Chicago Bears receiver Devin Hester, and he called the team's decision to limit Hester's return duties "a tragedy."
"I think there were some things there that they took away from our arsenal by taking him out of the return game," Muhammad said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "What he did was very special. Some of the returns Devin had [in 2006] were things that will always be in the history books. I think it's a tragedy to see those abilities taken away from him and limiting him to the responsibility of just being a wide receiver."
Hester scored 11 touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns spanning the 2006 and 2007 regular seasons, and returned a kick for a score in the Bears' Super Bowl loss to the Colts in 2007. In an effort to get his playmaking ability on the field more, Bears coaches turned Hester into a receiver before the 2008 season, and the experiment has had mixed results.
Hester has averaged 54 catches for 711 yards in his two full seasons as a receiver, but his return game has suffered. He hasn't scored a touchdown on a return since Dec. 30, 2007 against the New Orleans Saints. After returning 31 kicks without a score in 2008, Hester returned just seven in 2009 as Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox got the bulk of the work.
Muhammad, who played with the Bears from 2005-07, spent his final two seasons with the Carolina Panthers before retiring after the 2009 season.
"[The Bears] probably should have kept me for another year," he said. "I would have said that, but who am I to criticize some of the decisions that go on in the back office. Obviously they've got all the answers. In my opinion I think I still had another year of grooming [Hester] and he really needed my tutelage to help him excel to another level. Is Devin Hester going to be a great player? Absolutely, no matter where he plays. As long as he has the ball in his hands you know he has the possibility of going the distance."