"Devin Hester, you are ridiculous!" were the words heard bellowing from Bears play-by-play commentator Jeff Joniak of WBBM News Radio 780 nearly every time Devin Hester would take a kick or punt return to the house.
Now, Joniak needs to come up with a new catchphrase, as Hester won't be taking any kick or punt returns back to the end zone any longer...mark my words.
In his first two years in the NFL, Devin Hester was the most dangerous kick/punt returner across the league, racking up 11 kick/punt returns for touchdowns and 2,713 return yards.
But since Bears head coach Lovie Smith's experiment to turn Hester into a wide receiver began two seasons ago, Hester's return numbers have faded drastically.
He had zero kick/punt returns for touchdowns in the 2008 campaign and only 877 return yards—nearly a 25 percent decrease in return yardage from his rookie season, and a 45 percent decrease in just one year.
It's evident that Hester's receiving has been the focus of his workout regime, but lately there are confirmed reports that it's the only part of his workout regime. Prior to preseason, Smith has announced that Hester will no longer be the Bears' kick returner. No reason has been given for the demotion.
But why won't he return another...ever? Even when the starting gig belonged to him last season, Hester's return yardage (and touchdowns) plummeted. He wasn't hitting open holes like he used to, and that explosive speed seemed useless, as he seemed too afraid to take risks like he used to, like jumping over defenders or ducking around five-man blocks.
His receiving skills have struggled, to say the least, but they seem to be coming along.
In his debut season as a wide receiver, he had 20 catches for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, he showed much improvement with 51 catches for 665 yards and three touchdowns.
But now Hester has big competition in the receiving arena in the form of Earl Bennett, Juaquin Iglesias, and Johnny Knox. He's no longer the No. 1 wide receiver on the depth chart and is currently fighting for his No. 2 position.
All the while, he's taking limited-to-no reps in the return department. In a recent interview with Lance Wilk that can be viewed here, Hester closes the interview out with a bit of foreshadowing.
Reporter: "What would you rather have, a kick return for a touchdown or an 80-yard bomb from Jay [Cutler]"
Hester: "80-yard bomb from Jay."
I think it's time we, as Bears fans, dig up some old videos of Hester's Super Bowl XLI opening kickoff return for a touchdown, or perhaps his two touchdown returns against the Rams, or maybe jumping over the punter against Denver in 2007, as the finer days of Devin Hester, the kick return master, are now a distant memory.