Bears want Devin Hester to focus kick returnsContinue reading.
Devin Hester: I won’t be with the Bears next season
Devin Hester won’t play for the Bears next season.
Perhaps the game’s greatest kick returner of all time acknowledged Wednesday night what signs had pointed to all offseason.
“From my knowledge,” he said on NFL Network, “I know Chicago wants to go a different route with me.”
That means letting Hester sign with another team when free agency begins Tuesday.
It could be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hester called former Bears coach Lovie Smith, now the Bucs’ boss, “my No. 1 coach right now because he’s the one that took a chance on me coming out of the draft.”
In a Facebook post to fans, Hester wrote, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we would like,” and vowed that, if he snaps the tie for most career touchdown returns with Deion Sanders (19), “We will have all broken it together.”
He wants to retire as a Bear one day.
In his eighth year with the Bears, the 31-year-old led the NFL with a career-high 1,436 kick return yards. Focusing solely on returning duties, Hester averaged 27.6 yards, fifth-best in the league.
In Week 2, he set a franchise record with 249 return yards.
Hester reached three Pro Bowls and will be best remembered for returning the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI 92 yards for a score.
His salary — Hester made $2.1 million last season — was prohibitive on a squad that has to makeover its defense.
The Bears have a potential replacement: Chris Williams, whom they signed off the Saints’ practice squad before Week 17.
Thursday morning, the Bears released a statement wishing him well.
“For the past eight seasons we have been honored to have Devin Hester as a part of our organization,” general manager Phil Emery said. “While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, 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 always be a welcome member of the Bears family. We thank him for his dedication and wish him and his family all the best.”