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Bears hoping Hester re-creates magic

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 20, 2012 – 5:33 pm

The Bears return to Arizona Sunday for the first time since 2006 when they scored three late touchdowns to turn a 23-3 deficit into a miraculous 24-23 victory on Monday Night Football.

Devin Hester capped that rally by returning a punt 83 yards for a touchdown, something that special teams coordinator Dave Toub would love to see again in this weekend’s game.

“You always want to win a game and if it takes a punt return or kick return then obviously that’s something that would be a plus,” Toub said Thursday after practice in the Walter Payton Center.

Hester, who holds the NFL record with 17 kick return touchdowns, has not padded the mark this season. But he’s flashed his old form the past two weeks with a 21-yard punt return against the Vikings and a 24-yard punt return and season-long 40-yard kickoff return versus the Packers.

“He’s being more aggressive,” Toub said. “Two weeks ago we asked him to be more aggressive  to the ball and attack it and show people the real Devin Hester, and he’s responding. The last two weeks he’s looked good, and hopefully he takes even another step this week.”

Sunday’s game pits two of the NFL’s top punt returners. While Hester led the league with a 16.2-yard average and two touchdowns last season, the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson was second with a 15.9-yard average and four TDs, tying the NFL record that Hester also shares.

“He’s by far the best punt returner that we’re going to face all year,” Toub said. “The guy’s extremely dangerous. I didn’t have to show a lot of clips before he got the guys’ attention. But they knew going in our hands are going to be full.”

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Bears continue to get healthier

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 20, 2012 – 4:20 pm

The Bears remain hopeful that five players who sat out last weekend’s loss to the Packers at Soldier Field will be able to play Sunday against the Cardinals in Arizona.

Receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder), defensive end Shea McClellin (knee) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (chest) all practiced on a limited basis Thursday for the second straight day.

“All the guys are making progress that have been held out,” said coach Lovie Smith. “All the guys looked pretty good in practice today.”

Receiver Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Costanzo (calf) also were limited. “Hopefully they’re not that serious and they’ll be able to go,” Smith said.

For the second straight day, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and right tackle Jonathan Scott did not practice due to hamstring injuries.

Watching from the sideline as the Bears lost to the Packers last week wasn’t easy for Melton.

“Oh man, it was rough,” he said. “I saw my guys battling out there. I wanted to be out there to make a big play for them. But when you get hurt you’ve got to get your treatment and be kind of a little cheerleader on the sideline for them.”

Melton was injured two weeks ago against the Vikings when he tripped and landed on his shoulder.

“I’m way more athletic than that play,” Melton said. “I call it being sloppy. I was running sideways and kind of stumbled over a bunch of guys’ feet and just fell straight on my shoulder.”

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Jennings tops fan balloting for Pro Bowl

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 20, 2012 – 2:55 pm

Ten Bears finished in the top five at their respective positions in fan balloting for the NFC Pro Bowl team, which ended Monday.

The only Bears player to lead his position in votes was cornerback Tim Jennings, who tops the NFL with eight interceptions. Cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive tackle Henry Melton and return specialist Devin Hester all finished second at their positions.

Receiver Brandon Marshall and strong safety Major Wright were third; defensive end Julius Peppers and special teams standout Blake Costanzo were fourth; and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and outside linebacker Lance Briggs were fifth.

The Pro Bowl teams are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent NFC and AFC.

NFL players and coaches cast their votes this week. The teams will be announced at 6 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, Dec. 26 on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.”

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, a week before Super Bowl XLVII, and televised live on NBC at 6 p.m. (CT) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

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