Devin Hester has not been shy about how he feels this offseason.
Directly after the firing of former Bears head coach Lovie Smith on Dec. 31, Hester became the most vocal he has been in years. In an interview with ESPN Chicago, he explained how he doesn't have the same passion he once played with.
I don't even know if I want to play again. That's been something on my mind for two years. It's not (much fun for me anymore). I've got my workers comp papers in my pocket. We'll see how I feel. I'm going to go home and talk to my wife and talk to my family and see where we go from there. I got two beautiful kids, man, two boys. A lot of stress has been on my mind lately.
A month later in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hester explained his comments and talked about needing a possible trade to rejuvenate his career.
I'm going to try to get two or three more years in, I think I have that much left in me. At the same time, I think I do need a fresh start. I'm not making any excuses. I know some of the plays I should have made in terms of catching the ball. But I just wasn't feeling it. My mind wasn't there the majority of the time. I'm loyal to my team. But the fans and my teammates have to understand where I'm coming from. I don't want to walk away from this game with another season going the way it ended this year. It might have to take a fresh start somewhere else.
Hester continued to say in the interview that if he were to remain with the Bears, it would be strictly for special team purposes.
To be honest with you, if I'm still here, I don't want to play offense. I don't think my role (on offense) will fit. I can't truly say that with the new offense, but from past experience, I don't think it will fit.
Whether the Chicago faithful understand where Hester is coming from or not, his comments are a lot for any Bears fan to soak in.
At one point it could have been said that Hester was the most electrifying player on the field. In his first two seasons with the Bears from 2006-07, Hester accounted for 2,713 return yards and 11 return touchdowns—four on kickoffs and seven on punts.
2008 was when the "Devin Hester wide receiver project" began. The best return man in the game saw his punt and kickoff returns drop immensely, mostly in being able to show the same breakaway ability to field punts and kickoffs for touchdowns. It almost seemed as if he was saving his energy for playing the receiver position.
Throughout his first season playing wide out, Hester caught 51 passes on 91 targets for 665 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games. With the flashes of brilliance Hester showed, it seemed that with more practice time learning the route tree and catching the ball that he could become a real threat at the receiver position.
2009 was Hester's most productive season at the receiver position. In 13 games, the wide out saw the same 91 targets. He caught 57 of those for 757 yards—three of them going for touchdowns. Hester averaged 13.3 yards a catch and accounted for 34 first downs.
From 2010-12, Hester saw his targets drop from 73, to 56, then to 40. Although he caught four touchdowns in 2010, he only caught two in 2011 and 2012.
He did see a revival, though, in his return game from his 2008-09 seasons, where he had no touchdowns fielding punts and kickoffs. Hester had three punt returns in 2010, and two punt returns and a kickoff return in 2011. It seemed as if the Hester of old had returned to his 2006-07 form.
But those hopes were quickly evaporated in the 2012 season, as he had his worst season as a pro with no kickoff or punt returns and just one touchdown in the receiving game.
So what do the Bears do with a now 30-year-old who is coming off his poorest season and confused about his future? What can the Bears realistically get in a trade? A fourth-round pick at best, maybe? And that is if the Bears really sell he is still a consistent threat returning the football or receiving. An even more realistic expectation is to get a couple of late round picks, like two sixths or a fifth and a seventh.
Finding a suitor for the Hester trade may be even more difficult than actually discussing what Chicago would get in return. This means he might be more valuable staying a Bear.
But does keeping Hester on the roster become a problem if he is as upset as he claims?
It can be predicted that new head coach Marc Trestman would not like to begin his tenure in Chicago already in turmoil with a fan favorite. Having said he would not want to play at wide receiver anymore, the new coaching scheme Trestman might be enough of a change to convince Hester that he will play an important role in the offense. It can be thought that Trestman would love to have Hester be a deep threat in the passing game.
Whatever the Bears decide to do, Hester has to prove that he can get back to being a consistent threat returning the ball, not to mention prove that he still has passion playing the game.
The coming months will prove to be very busy for the Bears' coaching staff and front office with the combine, free agency and the draft soon approaching. It will be very interesting to see how they decide to answer the questions surrounding Hester.
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