LAKE FOREST, Ill. (May 14, 2007) -- Devin Hester is taking his game-breaking skills to the Chicago Bears' offense.
Hester set an NFL record last year for kick returns for touchdowns, and he started off the Super Bowl with a 92-yard kickoff runback for a touchdown. He rarely played on anything but special teams, though, and when he did, it was as a cornerback.
Now, the Bears will try him as a wide receiver.
Coach Lovie Smith said the All-Pro return specialist will make the switch beginning with the upcoming minicamp.
"I think Devin Hester is one of the most exciting players in the NFL with his hands on the football," Smith told ChicagoBears.com. "I think he would be an excellent defensive back, also. We just feel that this is in the best interest of us and him for him to achieve his full potential as a football player."
Smith also expects to use Hester in the backfield at times.
"Right now we're not going to put any limits on it," Smith said. "We have a new piece to the puzzle. We're anxious to see what we can do with him and the role that he'll develop into.
"There are a lot of different ways we can go. You can make a case for him being a slot receiver. You can make a case for him being a single receiver when we go to our two-tight end, two-running back packages. You can make a case for him from the running back position.
"He's an offensive weapon right now. That's the only limit we put on him."
In college for the Miami Hurricanes, Hester played receiver, running back, cornerback and returned kicks. The Bears chose him in the second round of the 2006 draft with the idea he could play either offense or defense, but would see much time on special teams.
He was sensational as a kick returner, with three punts run back for touchdowns and a 12.8-yard average, and two touchdowns and a 26.4-yard average on kickoff returns. Against the Rams, he had two returns for scores, and against the Giants he went 108 yards with a missed field goal.
Hester was not thinking about moving to offense.
"We had several meetings until I just really said that there's no I in team, and however I can help the team I'm willing to do it," Hester said. "It's going to be a great experience. I'm just going to go over there and try to give a little spark to the offense. There will be more opportunities to make big plays and I think it's a great idea."
So does offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who used Hester for only one play on offense last season. He couldn't handle a low pass from Rex Grossman on that play.
"I've been recruiting him for about 13 months and I finally got him," Turner said. "He's an elite player when he gets the ball in his hands, and I'm excited about the opportunity to help him get the ball in his hands -- not just returning punts and kickoffs, which is a few times a game. Hopefully we can get it in his hands five, six seven times different ways."
The Associated Press News Service
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