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Bears GM Phil Emery on Devin Hester: ‘He’ll compete to be our returner’

Chicago Bears kick returner receiver DevHester field for pre-game warmups prior start game against MinnesotVikings November 25 2012 Soldier Field.

Chicago Bears kick returner and receiver Devin Hester on the field for pre-game warmups prior to the start of the game against the Minnesota Vikings November 25, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 23, 2013 6:39AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Devin Hester is back where he started — returning kicks and only returning kicks for the Bears. For now.

‘‘He’ll compete to be our returner,’’ general manager Phil Emery said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. ‘‘What he does beyond that depends on how he performs in that first role as a returner.’’

Hester’s production at wide receiver has diminished in four seasons with Jay Cutler at quarterback — from 57 receptions in 2009 to 40 in 2010 to 26 in 2011 before bottoming out in 2012. He had 23 receptions for 242 yards (10.5 yards per catch) and failed to score on a kickoff return.

‘‘Devin is a very versatile athlete,’’ Emery said. ‘‘We’re looking forward to him working with us in OTAs and see how we come out.’’

Carimi in limbo

The Bears don’t know if Gabe Carimi is a guard or a tackle heading into his third NFL season and first under coach Marc Trestman.

Our coaches are going to work through that — during OTAs, during the winter,’’ Emery said. ‘‘[They need to] get to know Gabe. Get to know what his strengths and weaknesses are. They’ve seen some things on tape. I think they see upside for him as a tackle or a guard. So we’ll find out through that process, and I’m sure that will take all the way through camp to find his exact position.’’

Carimi struggled in 2012 after recovering from major knee surgery that forced him to miss the last 14 games of his rookie season. After losing his right-tackle position to Jonathan Scott after 10 games, he ended up starting three games at right guard in place of injured starter Lance Louis.

Emery said he’s interested in re-signing Scott for 2013. Carimi might be needed at guard if Louis is not fully recovered from knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL Nov. 25 against the Vikings.

Groh set for gig

Alabama wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Groh is expected to be named the Bears’ wide receivers coach, league sources confirmed. Groh, who was a starting quarterback at Virginia, is the son of former New York Jets and Virginia coach Al Groh. He just completed his second season at Alabama.

McClellin to LB?

Shea McClellin was drafted 19th overall as a hand-on-the-ground defensive end — and had 21/2 sacks and 14 pressures in 345 snaps as a rookie in 2012. But Trestman left open the possibility that McClellin could play another position in defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s defense.

‘‘We’ve talked about that,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He has flexibility. He’s a tremendous athlete. As we put our team together, we’ll work on that. We’ve had discussions about Shea and his strengths and weaknesses. As Mel and the guys put the defense together, we’ll decide collectively what the best place for him to play is.’’

Evan on the ‘move’

Evan Rodriguez was a ‘move’ tight end when he was drafted in the fourth round last year. But he ended up at fullback — a commentary on the Bears’ offense more than Rodriguez’s versatility.

But that should change under Trestman, Emery said.

‘‘He’s going to be used in a variety of roles until we find the right role for him,’’ Emery said. ‘‘He did a good job [at fullback]. But he also has other skills. We’re going to work though OTAs and training camp to straighten that out and find that right role. He’ll have an opportunity to display all of his skills for our new staff.’’



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