Devin Hester would like to break Deion’s mark as a Bear
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter December 13, 2013 8:40PM
Devin Hester, Cameron Lawrence, Kyle Bosworth, Danny McCray
Updated: January 15, 2014 6:15AM
Devin Hester had the record for most touchdown returns in a career, and then he didn’t. A holding penalty a few weeks ago on special-teamer Craig Steltz wiped away that punt-return highlight against the Rams and that page in the history book.
But it’s coming again.
The Bears feel it.
“Do I want to make a big play? Heck, yeah,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. “We want to get Devin in the end zone, so the record’s done, and he breaks it as a Chicago Bear, for sure. We want to get that done.”
Hester is tied with Deion Sanders with 19 touchdown returns in the regular season. (Hester actually has 20 if the postseason is included.) And while Hester had tied Sanders in 68 fewer games, there’s no guaranteeing he will return next season, especially with so many others with expiring contracts.
So there’s a sense of urgency. Everyone in the Bears’ locker room knows it would be amazing — and simply right — if Hester broke the record as a Bear.
“We want it big-time for him,” special-teamer Eric Weems said. “Not only for him but for us, knowing we can be part of that, knowing that we can be the group that helps him break the record. We want it for him bad. We’re going to try to make that happen for him before the season’s over.”
Helping Hester’s cause is the winter. Hester said kicks aren’t sailing like they did earlier in the season because of the cold. That should make for more opportunities with the rest of the Bears’ season being spent outside.
Wintry conditions are expected Sunday in Cleveland for the game against the Browns, helping Hester against kicker Billy Cundiff, who’s 12th in the NFL with 35 touchbacks.
“You’re starting to see more kickoff returns because the ball is not hanging so deep, and it’s not going so deep into the end zone,” Hester said. “The ball is pretty much landing on the 1- or 2-yard line. The ball’s flight is not really carrying just because of the cold weather.”
The Browns have allowed three touchdown returns and would be an appropriate opponent to break the record against.
Browns special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor spent three seasons (2008-2010) with the Bears as a special-teams assistant, and coach Rob Chudzinski recruited Hester while at Miami.
“Every step along the way, there were signs that he was going to be great,” Chudzinski said. “The fact that he’s ultimately maybe the best of all time in doing that is really special.
‘‘Knowing him personally, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy and a better person.”
Ask around, and the record isn’t something Hester talks about.
“He doesn’t bring it up at all,” Weems said. “That’s just him being humble. But I know how bad he probably wants it to go down in the history books, and to beat Deion’s record, who wouldn’t want that?”
Record or not, Hester, at 31, has shown that he’s still a legit threat in the return game.
“When teams start kicking to me, that’s when you can say teams don’t feel you anymore,” Hester said.
“Teams are still kicking away from me. Teams are still kicking it out of bounds, squibbing them.’’
If anything, Hester said he wants the record for his teammates. He’ll worry about his legacy later.
“Most definitely,” Hester said. “We always look forward to stuff like that. It’s a team-effort thing. It’s a group effort, so all of us as one want to get that feeling of breaking that record and say that we did it as a unit and as Chicago Bears.”