OVER THE HILL?
Does Devin Hester still have it?
Hester, who turns 31 in November, did not have a kick-return touchdown last season after having six total in the two previous seasons.
Of 239 kick returns for touchdowns in the last eight years, only four have been scored by players 30 or older. But Devin Hester isn’t your average kick returner. Many of the great ones were still effective after turning 30.
After Age on
Player TDs 30 last TD
Brian Mitchell 13 5 34
Eric Metcalf 12 1 33
Dante Hall 12 0 29
Josh Cribbs 11 0 28
Deion Sanders 9 4 32
Mel Gray 9 7 33
Ollie Matson 9 0 28
Billy Johnson 8 1 31
Leon Washington 8 1 30
Allen Rossum 8 2 33
Rick Upchurch 8 2 30
Desmond Howard 8 1 30
Updated: August 27, 2013 6:38AM
BOURBONNAIS — Most Bears players have professed to being unfazed by general manager Phil Emery’s ‘‘no-contract-extension’’ edict. But none more so than Devin Hester.
With his NFL stock at an all-time low after a dreadful 2012 season, the kick returner can’t wait to play out the final year of his contract. He needs to.
‘‘I can’t speak for the others, but I’m more excited that this is my contract year,’’ Hester said as the Bears opened training camp Thursday in Bourbonnais. ‘‘I’d rather do my contract after the season is over, because the way I’m feeling now, I could boost my stock a whole lot from where it’s at now.’’
Hester is in the final year of a four-year, $40 million extension of his rookie contract he signed after a two-day training-camp holdout in 2008. He’ll be a dedicated kick returner for the first time in his career. Hester played cornerback as a rookie in 2006. He played wide receiver from 2007 to 2012. But after Hester struggled on offense (23 receptions, 242 yards, one touchdown) and kick returns last season, new coach Marc Trestman is hoping to revitalize Hester’s career by letting him do what he does best.
Hester, who will turn 31 in November, has a lot to prove. And he knows it.
‘‘I have to prove myself every year,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a league where only the best survive. I do feel like I am an elite player. I still have a lot left in the tank. For some of the guys that felt like I lost a step, it’s a burning fire that’s under my foot to prove [it] to not only you guys [reporters], but my family as well. I will show it this year.’’
Hester appears to have accepted his new role. His preparation for this season included participating in a National Geographic Channel show, ‘‘Man vs. Cheetah’’ in which he and Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson raced a cheetah.
He said he is invigorated and motivated to prove to the Bears he’s still got it.
‘‘I haven’t felt like this in a while,’’ Hester said. ‘‘I’m happy. I’m having fun. And when you get a happy Devin Hester, you don’t want to get rid of him.’’
As for his race with the cheetah, the results are being withheld until air time during Nat Geo Wild’s ‘‘Big Cat Week’’ in November.
So who won, man or cheetah?
‘‘Ah ... 2-3 will never let you down,’’ Hester said with a smile.