Devin Hester burst onto the NFL scene in 2006 when he returned two kickoffs and three punt returns for touchdowns. The following season, he was even more impressive when he set an NFL record with six return touchdowns. For that reason, Lovie Smith wanted to get the ball into Hester’s hands more often and decided to give him a shot at playing wide receiver, a position he never played while growing up playing Pop Warner football, high school football, and college football at the University of Miami. Smith’s decision to move him to wide receiver was at one point considered one of his biggest blunders. But after watching Hester’s one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone against the Cowboys last week, it looks as though that was a wise decision. He is no longer on the kickoff return team but he still returns punts, although not to the ability he did during the first two years of his career. In fact, Hester hasn’t scored on a special teams play since ’07 and he has gained only twelve yards on six returns this season. For that reason, Bears’ fans have been lobbying for him to return more kicks. In defense of Smith, it is very difficult to stay on top for long. NFL history is littered with explosive return men like Dante Hall that only peak for a few years, so Bears’ fans should be thankful Hester is versatile enough to make a switch to wide receiver. If Hester can be as good at wide receiver as he was returning kicks, the Bears offense could become among the NFC’s elite.
Devin Hester joined WQAM in Miami to talk about what he thinks about when people say that him playing wide receiver takes away from his effectiveness in the return game, how the offense has changed for him and the team since Mike Martz has arrived, and how he envisions the game vs. the Packers will play out.
What he thinks about when people say that him playing wide receiver takes away from his effectiveness in the return game:
“I disagree with it. To be honest it is not an easy process, me coming from growing up from Pop Warner to high school to college, I never really played receiver so that right alone was a big task for me and one that I wanted to master. I got an opportunity to get a shot at it. I feel like I am getting a lot better than I was. The repetition is helping me out a lot. Other than that the return game is still there it is just a matter of time when I am going to break one again.”
How the offense has changed for him and the team since Mike Martz has arrived:
“I think it helped out a lot. He is what you would consider an offensive genius. He gets guys into position where they are mismatched, the defenders. He draws up great plays that gets us a lot of mismatches and one on one with guys, and that right there puts us in a great position to go out there and make plays.”
What Mike Martz tells him going into a game:
“He already has the gameplan mastered out before the game is even over. During the game he just walks past you and say, ‘Ain’t this fun?’ Just The look on his face like he already has his opponent mastered out that he already knows what he is going to do what makes it so fun working with him. The plays that we run, the routes that we run. He kind of creates routes and you think about them and think, ‘God that does look good.’ He brings in that excitement and the plays that when you run against a defense you get the guys that are on our practice squad and like these plays are hard to stop. Even coming from our starting defense in camp we really opened up the playbook during camp and the defense was really praising Coach Martz about the plays the position he is putting the receivers in.”
How he thinks the offense is going to play in cold weather:
“You just got to think about it. You have got guys coming in and playing in the same conditions you are playing in so that is a mentality that you have got to have that you are not the only team playing in this condition. You have got your opponents coming in and playing in it. Other than that I think we get the advantage of it because we are practicing in it every day so we kind of get a feel what to prepare for this upcoming Sunday. So I think that is our biggest edge coming in to late in the season hopefully during a playoff situation we practice in this everyday and you get guys like from dorms and from the hot weather and they are not really used to this so when you come down and play in it their mind is not into it.”
How he envisions the game vs. the Packers will play out:
“We’re just going to do what we do best and that is to continue to work hard and that defense… I really do feel comfortable in our defense that they are going to hold up against the great offense that they got. You can’t kid nobody. Green Bay has a great offense and the defense that they are going to face this week is going to be pretty tough. I feel like our defense is really going to stand up and it will be up to the offense to put some points up on the board and if we do that and everybody plays hard, everything will work out for itself.”