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DeCamillis impressed with Hester, Ford

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 19, 2013 – 8:47 pm

Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis liked what he saw from the return game last Thursday night in the Bears’ 33-28 preseason win over the San Diego Chargers.

Devin Hester, who holds the NFL’s all-time record with 17 kick return touchdowns, brought back the opening kickoff 45 yards after fielding it eight yards deep in the end zone.

“He was pretty close [to breaking it for a TD],” DeCamillis said Monday. “The kicker made a nice play and then also the safety from the back side. It was just good to get him some action, some real action. It was good to see those guys blocking the way they did too because there were definitely some holes out there, which was nice to see.”

Michael Ford made an even more impressive play in the second half, returning a kickoff 100 yards to the San Diego 4-yard line, setting up a touchdown. Last season the undrafted rookie from LSU ranked second in the SEC in kickoff returns, averaging 27.5 yards while producing four kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer, including an 86-yarder that led to a TD against Arkansas.

“It would be tough not to like what you saw in a Michael Ford,” DeCamillis said. “He did a great job. On his long one, that wasn’t one of the better blocked returns that we had all night. He made a guy miss right in the hole. That was a great run by him and he did a better job on coverage too. So he’s making it tough. He’s doing a good job of what we need to see from him, that’s for sure.”

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Hester, Weems upset by Pro Bowl snub

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 1, 2013 – 4:15 pm

Even if Devin Hester leads the NFL in kick returns or adds to his all-time touchdown record, the only way he’ll go to the Pro Bowl this season is by buying a ticket to the game.

As part of radical changes to the Pro Bowl, the NFL announced Wednesday that kickoffs will be eliminated from the game and return specialists no longer will be part of the all-star teams.

As you’d expect, Hester isn’t very happy about the decision. The eight-year veteran, who holds the NFL’s all-time record with 17 kick return touchdowns, will be used exclusively as a return specialist this year after doubling as a receiver the previous six seasons.

“It’s something that my family looks forward to every year as well as me preparing and training,” said Hester, who has been selected to three Pro Bowls since joining the Bears in 2006.

“As a returner, that’s a goal that you set. If you don’t make the Super Bowl, then hopefully you have something else that you can fall back on and say, ‘I accomplished that.’ As far as taking it out, it [stinks]. For a person like me that’s only doing returns, it’s one less goal I have to [achieve].”

Eric Weems, who returned 13 kickoffs for the Bears last season and was voted to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player with the Falcons in 2010, feels Hester’s pain.

“That’s ridiculous if you ask me,” Weems said. “I thought everyone had equal opportunity. If a guy shows that he’s one of the top kick returners or punt returners in the league, he should have the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl. That’s a third of the game gone.

“I’m very shocked by it, and I can see why Hester’s upset also. That’s what he’s doing out here. That’s him. That’s his DNA. If he returns six or seven kicks for touchdowns, he needs to go to the Pro Bowl, regardless of any situation. I’m shocked by it. That’s ridiculous.”

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Players eager to prove their value

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 25, 2013 – 2:35 pm

General manager Phil Emery’s declaration that the Bears likely won’t sign any contract extensions during the season is motivating some players who are in the final years of their deals.

“I’m more excited that this is my contract year,” said return specialist Devin Hester. “I’d rather do my contract after the season is over because the way I’m feeling now, I could boost my stock a whole lot from where it’s at now. I’m not really paying attention to the contract. I’d rather have mine after the season because what I’m planning on doing this year is going to help me out.”

Emery said Wednesday that he didn’t anticipate signing any players to new deals because he wants the focus to be on the field and the Bears have little room under the salary cap.

“Most definitely it motivates you,” said cornerback Tim Jennings, who is one of more than 40 Bears players entering the final year of his contract. “It’s not disappointing. I guess it’s just writing on the wall for a lot of guys. We’ve got a new front office, a new head coach and a new coaching staff.

“Hopefully everything plays out for itself with guys here and we make the Super Bowl run and they’re going to have to start talking to a lot of guys and hopefully keep the right guys in the right places for years to come. They’ve got their plan in place and we’ve got to see how it goes.”

Other players in the same position as Hester and Jennings include James Anderson, Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Kelvin Hayden, Patrick Mannelly, Henry Melton, Matt Slauson, Craig Steltz, Charles Tillman, J’Marcus Webb, D.J. Williams, Corey Wootton and Major Wright.

“I feel like I could stay here for a while,” said Anderson, who inked a one-year deal with the Bears after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers. “A one-year deal just means ‘go prove yourself.’ So you go out there and you play ball and you let the chips fall where they may.”

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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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Hester, Spencer won’t play Sunday

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 29, 2012 – 4:30 pm

Bears receiver Devin Hester (concussion) and guard Chris Spencer (knee) have been ruled out of Sunday’s home game against the Seahawks after sitting out Thursday’s practice.

Four other players were limited Thursday, all with ankle injuries: Linebacker Lance Briggs, tight end Kellen Davis, running back Matt Forte and cornerback Charles Tillman. Briggs and Forte both told reporters that they expect to play Sunday.

If Forte does play, he’ll line up behind an offensive line that’s assured of starting its third different combination in as many weeks after left guard Lance Louis was placed on injured reserve.

“It doesn’t change my approach at all,” Forte said. “You’ve just got to trust those guys up front. They’re getting a lot of reps in practice right now so that they know what to do in the game.”

Forte hated to see Louis suffer a season-ending knee injury in last Sunday’s win over the Vikings.

“I think this was his contract year, and to lose him for the rest of the season is tough,” Forte said. “I’m just praying for him and I know he’ll come back strong.”

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Bears keeping egos in check

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 7, 2012 – 3:37 pm

Ten players on the Bears’ 53-man roster have been voted to the Pro Bowl, with five of those individuals receiving a combined 28 invitations to the league’s annual all-star game.

Despite that type of talent, receiver Devin Hester doesn’t think that egos will be a problem as the Bears pursue a common goal that has eluded most of their players, including all 10 Pro Bowlers.

“You’ve just got to look at the big picture, plain and simple,” Hester said Friday. “The big picture is winning the Super Bowl, and everybody is buying into that.

“This team is full of stars, full of Pro Bowlers. But there are very few of us that have Super Bowl rings and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. When we talk about that, we put our egos to the side and say, ‘we’ve got to look at the bigger picture and let’s try to win a Super Bowl ring.'”

Only three players on the roster have won a Super Bowl: Defensive backs Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden when the Indianapolis Colts beat the Bears to cap the 2006 season and tight end Matt Spaeth when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals to end the 2008 campaign.

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Bears offense finishes with a flurry

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 6, 2012 – 8:29 pm

Jay Cutler and the rest of the Bears’ No. 1 offense ended Monday’s practice with a flourish, engineering an impressive two-minute drill that resulted in a touchdown.

Starting at his own 35-yard line with no timeouts, Cutler completed passes to Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall before spiking the ball to kill the clock at the 9. After an eight-yard pass to Kyle Adams, Cutler snapped the ball and plowed into the end zone behind his offensive line for a TD.

“We’ve been trying to finish practice in that last period a little bit better,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “I felt like in the first two weeks we only had one practice where we finished the last period good. It felt like the two-minute drill today, we finished practice better than we have.”

The well-executed two-minute drill came after Cutler had thrown three interceptions in a lengthy red-zone drill. He was picked off by linebackers Lance Briggs and Nick Roach and nickel back D.J. Moore.

Asked later about the Bears defense, Cutler said: “They’re good. They’re very sound. They’re well coached. They’re in the right spot all the time and they make plays on the ball. For the three years that I’ve gone against them, there’s no let-up in this crew. It makes us better and I think some of the things that we’re doing offensively challenges them a little bit as well.”

The No. 2 offense also scored a touchdown in its two-minute drill as quarterback Jason Campbell connected on passes to Armando Allen, Joe Anderson, Brittan Golden and Chris Summers.

After Craig Steltz broke up a pass intended for Evan Rodriguez near the goal line, Campbell completed a 12-yard pass to Anderson on fourth-and-five from the 17. Three plays later Campbell rifled a 5-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Allen.

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Hester OK after collision with Wright

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 27, 2012 – 7:13 pm

The Bears survived a scare in their second training camp practice Friday when receiver Devin Hester was knocked to the ground in a collision with safety Major Wright while both were trying to catch a pass down the seam.

Hester walked off the field gingerly, but returned moments later and finished the practice. He told reporters after the workout that it was “nothing major” and he would be fine.

Asked what had happened, Hester said: “I’ve got to go in and watch film, I really don’t know. We kind of collided, both of us going for the ball. It’s just something that happens.”

Although the Bears were practicing in shells and won’t conduct their first padded workout until Saturday night, Hester wasn’t surprised about what transpired when the ball was in the air.

“If you don’t expect accidents, then you shouldn’t play football,” Hester said. “It’s just the nature of the beast. There are going to be accidents, even if we’re playing touch.”

Hester returned on the first-team offense’s next series of plays and caught a pass from Jay Cutler.

“It was bothering me, but at the same time I wanted to see where I was at,” Hester said. “You can have a little nagging injury, but it won’t affect the way you play once the play is snapped. So I just wanted to see how I felt once the ball was snapped.”

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Hester vows to make big plays on offense

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 25, 2012 – 3:25 pm

As Devin Hester prepares for the 2012 season, he’s determined to generate explosive plays in the pass game just as he’s done throughout his career as a record-breaking return specialist.

“When I catch the ball, I want to accelerate and make guys miss,” Hester said Wednesday. “That is my biggest goal this year. When I get my hands on the ball, I want to explode out and every time before I go down I want to make two or three guys miss. If there is only two out there, I want to score.”

Since being moved from cornerback to wide receiver in 2007, Hester leads the Bears in receiving yards (2,565) and ranks second in receptions (194) and touchdown catches (13).

Hester is looking forward to adding to those numbers as part of a revamped offense that was bolstered by the offseason additions of receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Devin Thomas; running back Michael Bush; and quarterback Jason Campbell.

“This is an offense that I think can fit me,” Hester said. “We’ve got a nice quick game coming along as well as deep down the field. If [defenses] want to stack the box with the great running backs that we have, it’s going to open up for the receivers.”

Hester has especially enjoyed working with Marshall, a three-time Pro Bowler who is one of only three NFL receivers to compile at least 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons.

“Just sitting back and watching him working his mechanics, the way he works as a receiver, it kind of leaps off on me and I try to just copycat after everything he is doing,” Hester said. “He has been helping out a lot. I think he is going to contribute to our team as well as help us out in a major big way.”

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