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Devin Hester saddened by end to illustrious Bears career

Updated: March 7, 2014 11:35PM

Devin Hester and the Bears said their public farewells Thursday, one day after the kick returner admitted he wasn’t in the team’s plans with free agency approaching.

Not that it was easy: Hester tweeted that he watched a YouTube highlight reel of his returns from his early Bears years, which made him “almost cry.”

“I can’t believe the Bears not re-signing me,” he wrote.

In a statement, the Bears said they told Hester they would not retain him when free agency begins Tuesday. General manager Phil Emery thanked him for his eight years with the team.

“While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return ­position in the NFL,” Emery said, “the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers.

“Not only is Devin a special player, he is also an exceptional person. He is a great teammate, husband and father.

“Devin represented the organization off the field as well as he did on it. When his career is over, he will often be a welcome member of the Bears family.

“We thank him for his dedication and wish his family all the best.”

Hester led the NFL with 1,436 kick return yards last year, and has more combined kick and punt returns, 18, than any player in the history of the NFL.

The 31-year-old leaves the Bears with 11,632 all-purpose yards, second-most in franchise history, and with franchise records in return touchdowns, punt return yards, kickoff return yards and combined return yards.

Hester said Wednesday night that he wants to keep playing and that he would consider re-joining former Bears coach Lovie Smith on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Teammate Kyle Long wrote on Twitter that Hester gave him a pair of cleats at the end of the season with writing on the heels.

“The two words on the back of those cleats define him,” the Bears guard wrote. “ANY TIME.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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