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Devin Hester should get help from new receivers, offense

Bears DevHester (23) makes run against Vikings Sunday Oct. 16th. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

Bears Devin Hester (23) makes a run against the Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 16th. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 6, 2012 9:29AM

The only thing more misleading than a big play in an offseason practice might be Devin Hester making a big play in an offseason practice.

So take it for what it’s worth that Hester made the play of the day at practice Wednesday at Halas Hall, reaching out to snare a downfield dart from Jay Cutler. After getting kudos from Cutler as ‘‘the best receiver in camp’’ last week, the hopes for Hester are higher than ever.

‘‘I like to hear that,’’ said Hester, who had 26 receptions for 369 yards and one touchdown in 2011. ‘‘And that’s my mentality every year, to be a top-notch receiver in this league. Regardless if it’s a deep ball or catching hitches and making plays, that’s my mentality.’’

The additions of Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery are expected to make things easier for Hester. A simplified offense under Mike Tice also might be a factor.

‘‘This offense is a lot easier, it’s a lot simpler from previous years,’’ Hester said. ‘‘Alshon picked up the offense right away, so he’s going to be a big weapon. We’ve got Brandon, who’s going to go up and get those jump balls. This offense is going to be very explosive this year.’’

Mannelly on target

Long snapper Pat Mannelly, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season, said he’s on target to return at the start of training camp.

‘‘I’m snapping and running, working on more directional running as far as cutting and stuff like that,’’ Mannelly said. ‘‘I can snap, set and get out of my breaks and block people. I’m just going to need more reps and more rehab of just getting more comfortable doing it and more strength.’’

Conte confident

Free safety Chris Conte, who started nine games as a rookie in 2011 before suffering an ankle injury against the Seattle Sea­hawks in Week 15, is participating in all workouts.

Conte figures to start, but he won’t be handed the job. Brandon Hardin was drafted from Oregon State in the third round.

‘‘[The competition is] there,’’ Conte said. ‘‘It’s just going to bring the best out of all of us.’’

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