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redeyechicago.com

Welcome back, Devin Hester

Steve Rosenbloom

The RosenBlog

8:15 AM CDT, September 17, 2013

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Isn’t this where we came in with Devin Hester?

Isn’t this the kind of guy we saw eight seasons ago when he pantsed the NFL with kickoff and punt returns that were, well, ridiculous, as Jeff Joniak said?

Hester is back to returning kicks and punts, period. Nothing else. None of that cockamamie wide receiver stuff that Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith shoveled.

Angelo paid him like a No. 1 receiver. Smith called him a No. 1 receiver. That’s the reason the Bears never had a legit No. 1 receiver until both of them were fired.

But it wasn’t just that stupidity. No, it was that the Bears showed zero vision. They refused to pay the best returner in league history like he was a thing. They refused to limit the best returner in history to that game-changing position.

Angelo and Smith were like so many in their respective positions: afraid to make a contrary decision, no matter how compelling and obvious the evidence.

Nobody could do what Hester did. Nobody changed field position the way Hester did. The Bears should’ve paid and then played Hester like a one-of-a-kind performer, which he was, which was obvious to everybody except Angelo and Smith.

Hester had no idea where to line up on offense. Worse, Hester turned bad on special teams. The Bears took a big gun and turned it into cotton candy. Angelo and Smith showing their “geniusness’’ right there, people.

Then came Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, people with brains, or at least eyes. No more offense for Hester. Just return kicks and punts. Any questions?

Hester said he was all for his new-old role, not that he had much choice. He was told what to do and he vowed to do it better. To his credit, he has.

The first thing Hester said he would do was run straight ahead. If it wasn’t the first thing he said, it was certainly the most important. It seems simple to say you catch the kickoff and run north-south, but Hester too often ran east-what-are-you-doing-idiot?

Not Sunday, however. Against the Vikings, Hester was just being the Hester we used to marvel over. He broke his franchise record with 249 kickoff return yards, averaging almost 50 per. While he didn’t take one all the way to match the Vikings, Hester continually changed the game the way we remember.

Hester’s first return covered 76 yards and set up Martellus Bennett’s 1-yard TD catch to tie the score, an answer to Cordarelle Patterson’s stunning 105-yard TD kick return to open the game.

Later, Hester ripped off returns of 80 and 42 yards. It wasn’t his fault the Bears turned over the ball both times.

But Hester had done his job against the easiest mark he has found since coming into the NFL. By the last four minutes, the Vikings were so scared that they pooched a kickoff while trying to protect a lead. Joe Anderson returned it to the Bears 34. Jay Cutler did the rest. Ballgame.

Even when he didn’t touch the ball, Hester affected field position. Standing back there as merely a threat, Hester changed the game. Just like he used to. Sanity returned to the Bears. So did some Hester insanity.