Chicago Bears wide receiver/returner Devin Hester is, to put it mildly, dangerous.
The sixth-year pro is second in NFL history with 18 total return touchdowns, including 12 punt returns, 5 kickoff returns and one missed field goal return.
Champ Bailey is plenty familiar with the way Hester can change a game, as Hester returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns en route to a 37-34 Bears victory in Denver the last time the two teams faced off.
“We know what type of player he is,” Bailey said, adding that he wouldn’t kick to Hester “in a million years.” “You don’t take any chances with the guy. He’s the best in the game, the best ever in my book.”
When asked whether he would kick to Hester, Brian Dawkins seemed to have a different view.
“Oh yeah,” he said, pausing. “Out of bounds. Straight out of bounds.”
After drawing a laugh from the media, the veteran safety elaborated.
“He’s a huge, tremendous weapon,” he said. “This cat is gifted to do things that, obviously, no one’s been able to do the way he’s done it in a short period of time. You can have coaches that beat their chests, ‘We’re going to kick it to him; we’re going have coverage behind, though.’ If you ask me, if I’m the coach, I’m kicking it straight out of bounds — right toward him — but out of bounds, so if he does catch it, he’s going to be tiptoeing the sideline as he falls out of bounds.”
Head Coach John Fox said on Wednesday that he doesn’t want to give away the team’s plans regarding Hester, only that “we are aware of him and he’s a great player.”
Britton Colquitt, the punter potentially tasked with avoiding the league’s most dangerous returner, said there are a variety of ways to accomplish that task.
“I’d love to say I could do what [Oakland P Shane] Lechler did and kick it over his head 80 yards, but it’s not easy,” he said. “It just depends on where we are on the field. He’s a great returner, but we have a great coverage unit. Sometimes, when you try to go out of bounds, you don’t have as good of a hit, and sometimes you just hit a good 35- or 40-yard fair catch ball. He’ll still try to fair catch it, too, if you hit it high enough.”
In the end, Colquitt said he’ll look to do his job the way he has done it the previous 12 games. He currently ranks third in the league in net punting average with 41.6 yards per kick. At his current pace, he would set a new franchise record.
He doesn’t want to adjust his style too much just because of the returner he’s facing.
“He’s waiting for that,” Colquitt said. “He wants guys to be like, ‘I’m going to kick away from you.’”
“You’ve just got to be on your game all the time.”
Below are photos from Thursday’s practice.