Emery: Devin Hester’s no quitter; returner explains on Twitter
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org
Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears
If kick returner Devin Hester wants to chat about his future, general manager Phil Emery said his door is always open.
An emotional Hester said after Lovie Smith was fired that he was contemplating retirement for the last two years. Emery, though, doesn’t expect him to quit.
“I saw the comments,” Emery said Tuesday. “I felt for Devin because I take all that in context that these guys have played a long time. Devin came in as a draft pick with Lovie. I certainly understand the emotion. There will be a time where his emotions clear.
“Obviously, Devin’s under contract, so if he sent his retirement papers in, I would know. But I don’t anticipate that. I think he’s a great competitor. I think that was an emotional situation that evoked an emotional response, and I certainly understand that.”
The record-breaking return man took to Twitter later Tuesday to try to clarify his comments.
“Let me make myself clear, the reason why I feel like retiring has nothing to do with Lovie Smith getting fired,” Hester said on Twitter.
While he was cleaning out his locker, Hester said football wasn’t as fun for him anymore and that he was feeling stressed.
“It’s hard to play this game when you’re not happy or having fun at what you love to do in life,” Hester reiterated on Twitter.
Next for 54?
Emery declined to discuss linebacker Brian Urlacher’s future, saying, “That’s a privacy issue between the player and the team.”
Urlacher, 34, is a free agent. He missed the last four games with a hamstring injury after needing knee surgery in the preseason. Emery said Urlacher got better after looking “a little rusty” early on.
“Did he make progress? Yes, he did,” Emery said. “The things that are very difficult to replace for Brian and would be to replace for Brian, if we were ever to move in a different direction, is the leadership that he has and the knowledge base that he has with our system.”
Running back Matt Forte had 44 catches for 340 yards and a touchdown, but Emery envisioned much more production in the passing game.
“I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver,” Emery said. “For whatever reason, whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching, we didn’t utilize Matt or he didn’t have the opportunity to be fully utilized.”
Emery, though, won’t blame offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
“We have to get better in protection,” Emery said. “To do that, I have to provide a better competitive mix of players. That’s the only way to drive up the mix, to provide more talent. That’s on me.”
Emery said the Bears’ assistant coaches remain under contract and that some might stick with the team if the new coach chooses to retain them or is unable to get targeted replacements.
“They may be in the mix, and I’d like for some of them to stay if that’s the way it ends up,” he said.