Back to D-back for Devin Hester? That’s not likely
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter November 22, 2013 9:48PM
Devin Hester and coach Marc Trestman laughed off the notion that Hester might switch to defense. | Michael DeMocker/AP
Updated: December 24, 2013 6:12AM
The balls flew out of the pitching machine Friday, arcing over the heads of the Bears’ defensive backs. They sprinted with their backs to the machine, finding the floating football against the backdrop of the Walter Payton Center roof and trying to do their best Willie Mays impersonation.
Then Devin Hester jumped in.
“I can cover anybody,” he said later with a smile. “Put a safety over the top, and I’ll shut anybody down.”
Yeah — but you need a safety.
“I’m a cover-2 man,” he said.
What he is, is a kick returner.
Hester knows it, too.
While he participated in defensive-back drills at least twice this week, and the Bears have been thin with injuries to nickel back Isaiah Frey and safety Craig Steltz, Hester, 31, characterized the drills as a lark.
After all, he hasn’t played in the secondary regularly since 2006.
“I do it to have fun,” Hester said. “Being a special-teamer, I really don’t get as many reps as the normal guys in practice.”
During his college days at Miami, he played cornerback and running back and returned kicks. In high school, he took snaps at running back. And remember the Bears’ “Devin Package”?
Tongue firmly in cheek, Hester said he’ll play “a little bit of quarterback this year” and will throw for exactly 30 yards.
“St. Louis,” he said, “y’all be ready.”
Hester and coach Marc Trestman have laughed off the notion that Hester — who left his wideout spot upon Trestman’s arrival to focus on returning — might switch to defense.
Gamesmanship, not game-planning, has caused them to be a bit coy. Trestman gave a you-never-know answer earlier this week.
Hester said playing corner in practice allows him “to reminisce on stuff.”
The Bears should be thrilled if he tries to relive one of his most famous games Sunday.
On Dec. 11, 2006, at the Edward Jones Dome, he became the sixth player in league history to return two kickoffs (94 and 96 yards) for touchdowns in one game.
Hester’s smile stretched from end zone to end zone when asked about it.
“It brings back a lot of memories from my rookie year,” he said.
Then he offered another one: That day was his first with regular snaps at cornerback.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Rams wide receiver Torry Holt ran a slant route from the 1-yard line, then wheeled out of it.
Hester held him, but it didn’t matter: Holt caught the touchdown.
“I said, ‘OK, this is what NFL cornerback is like,’ ’’ Hester said.
“The next play, I ran a kickoff back — so we were even.”
His impact against the Rams will have to be on special teams.
“I don’t know that they’re gonna give me any returnable balls,” he said. “They’re going to try to pin us in the corners and bloop a lot of stuff.”
The Bears might do the same to wide receiver Tavon Austin, the speedy rookie who has totaled 212 yards on nine kickoff returns.
Bears special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis compared Austin to a young Hester this week, saying that covering Austin is going to be a real test for the Bears.
“He’s a great athlete,” Hester said. “He’s one of those athletes you look at and say, ‘Yeah, he’s gonna be special one day.’ ”
Barring a disaster, it just won’t be with Hester covering him.
“We’re deep at DBs right now,” Hester said.
“Push comes to shove — fourth quarter, two minutes left in the game — if we need any kind of coverage, I’ll do it.”