The Chicago Bears made Lovie Smith the most surprising firing on Black Monday, and now the franchise has been hit with more shocking news: Dynamic return man Devin Hester is reportedly contemplating retirement at age 30.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune took to Twitter to break the news:
Emotional Devin Hester says he is considering retiring from NFL.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) December 31, 2012
Hester has returned 12 punts and seven kickoffs for touchdowns in his seven-year career, excluding the playoffs, where his opening-kickoff TD in Super Bowl XLI was particularly memorable.
Although it's pure conjecture as to why Hester is considering walking away from the game at this point, part of it may be due to the firing of Smith. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times documented Hester's frustration after Smith was let go:
#Bears' Devin Hester on media, fans: "You got what you all wanted."— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) December 31, 2012
Whatever the reason may be, it would be a huge blow to the Bears faithful to see a player of Hester's caliber walk away. But for as much of a playmaker as Hester is, the 2012 campaign marks the first time in three seasons where he hasn't returned a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown.
Combine that with just 23 receptions for 242 yards and only one touchdown as a receiver, and it may be that Hester's best days of football are behind him. The age-30 marker has been a dreaded milestone for several star running backs in recent years and may doom Hester as well.
Will Devin Hester retire this offseason?
Emotions are high after the firing of Smith, who guided the Bears to a 10-6 record and narrowly missed out on the playoffs. The health of quarterback Jay Cutler affected some key games for Chicago, but Smith's team ultimately collapsed after starting off 7-1.
The NFL is a bottom-line business, and the end may be near for Hester—self-inflicted by retirement or due to his dip in production this past season.
Check back here for the latest on Hester as this situation develops.