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Painful dilemma: Play through injury or sit

DevHester has been trying battle through an ankle injury: “I just don’t feel like myself.” | Jack Dempsey-AP

Devin Hester has been trying to battle through an ankle injury: “I just don’t feel like myself.” | Jack Dempsey-AP

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Updated: January 26, 2012 8:13AM

Devin Hester hasn’t missed a game this season.

But the Bears receiver and returner was visibly frustrated after last Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

He injured his ankle Nov. 7 in Philadelphia, limiting him in many practices the next three games, before disappearing from the injury report against the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, he returned a punt 44 yards.

But Hester didn’t practice the Friday before the Seahawks game, and he managed just one return – a 17-yarder on a kickoff — before shutting it down.

“I’m must trying to recover from the injuries, and fight through it,” Hester said. “It’s tough. I don’t feel like myself. But, in the NFL, you got to fight through things.”

It’s a dilemma every NFL player ultimately deals with, whether to persevere through an injury or give in and properly heal. Professional baseball, basketball and hockey all have at least 82 regular-season games, which afford athletes in those sports more grace to recover from injuries. In the NFL, though, there’s only 16 games.

And the players feel the pressure to play.

“There’s a lot of injuries that happen in the NFL,” said Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, who missed his first game last Sunday because of a shin injury. “A lot of other sports have more time and their games don’t matter as much, so they can take more time and come back 100 percent.”

Receiver Earl Bennett didn’t play in five games because of a chest injury, and he noted he’s glad that the team doctors dictated his timetable.

“Of course, I wanted to be out there sooner,” he said, “but the extent of my injury was too serious. I’m glad it wasn’t in my control.”

The return from concussion has once again become a central focus, most recently because Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was drilled on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison two weeks ago, only to return just plays later. But, McCoy was diagnosed with a concussion after the game, and he didn’t play last Sunday in a 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Hester talked about the Catch-22 of playing in pain and sitting to heal.

“It is hard, especially when you have such high expectations, and you can’t do what you do,” he said. “What’s keeping me back is my injuries. There’s just certain stuff I can’t do out there.”

Last season, cornerback Tim Jennings played through a knee injury that robbed him of some explosiveness.

“But this is the game of football. You got to be a tough guy, and you got to be tough-minded to even go out there,” he said. “And later in the season, you’re never going to be 100 percent, so you just got to suck it up and play.”

That’s the mentality of most.

Despite not practicing this week, Hester is undergoing treatment multiple times a day. He won’t know if his ankle is better — because it doesn’t hurt him to walk — until he tests it Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

But, he’s got a special incentive to play.

“I want to give my son a Christmas touchdown ball, man,” he said. “That’s how bad I want it.

“I want to take one home.”

Webb progressing, according to Tice

Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb looks like he’s had a rough season, particularly of late. But offensive line coach Mike Tice insisted that Webb is “having a good year.”

“Last week I thought he had a little bit of a setback,” Tice said. “He struggled a little bit in the pass protection. He’s been blocking extremely well in the run game, especially on the backside of runs. On the backside of runs, he’s cut out the backside of the defense, time and time again. The whole season.

“He’s developed into a solid run blocker, and an excellent run blocker on the backside. Which is what we do. Pass-wise, he got beat inside on that first third down, and he kind of went into a little funk, I couldn’t get him to snap out of it, It was some technique things that fell apart on him. I look for him to bounce back and have a good, solid game.”

All in the family

Heading into the final week of STATS National Fantasy Football Championship, brothers Michael and Joseph Treffiletti are vying for the $100,000 top prize.

There were 322 teams, with the entry fee at $1,400, and Michael holds a 9.69 point lead on his brother.

So today, on Christmas, they’ll be fighting for $100,000.

“Not counting the year our house almost burned down because of the chimney fire, this will be the most eventful Christmas we’ve ever had,” Joe said, according to Yahoo! Sports. “There hasn’t been any trash talk, just cautious nervousness.”

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