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March 6, 2014 @ 10:55 am
Current rating: 3.00 Stars/2 Votes

Hester Says His Arms Are Open for Reunion With Smith

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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Lovie Smith and his staff emphasize special teams and think they can win games based on having a "special" special teams group. On Wednesday Bears free agent kick returner Devin Hester hinted that he would be welcome to the idea of reuniting with his former head coach in Tampa Bay.
It is qite clear special teams will be a focus in Tampa Bay for Lovie Smith and his new staff, and not just an afterthought and a necessary evil as some coaches treat it. Finding a dynamic kick returner is something that many feel will be a priority in free agency or the draft for Tampa Bay, and one prolific returner has his hand raised hoping Smith picks him.

Speaking on NFL Network on Wednesday night Chicago’s Devin Hester made it clear he wouldn’t mind receiving a phone call from his former coach.

“(Bucs coach) Lovie (Smith) is my number one coach right now because he’s the one who took a chance on me coming out in the draft,’’ Hester said. “He has all my respect, so if he . . . (asks) me to come play wit him again, my arms are open.’’

Something Smith stressed back in January during his initial press conference and meeting with the Bucs beat writers shortly thereafter was the importance of special teams play.

“To me, if you play great defense, you can win eight games,” Smith said. “If you have special teams along with that, you can win 10. But in order for us to have three phases that contribute to wins, we need a great returner also.”

The Bucs had first-year player Eric Page returning kicks and punts last year with some level of success. Page averaged 24.9 yards per kick return and 10.9 yards per punt return in 2013.

But Smith might have someone else in mind in 2014. 

“Special teams, we win out,” Smith said. “I, myself, worked out Devin Hester. You’ve got to have a returner. You can win games. We won games based on our special teams and having a good kicker and a good punter.”

Hester finished the 2013 season with 52 kickoffs for a league-leading 1,436 yards as well as 18 punts for 256 yards and a touchdown.

The Bears second-round pick in 2006, who is tied Deion Sanders’ record for career special teams touchdowns with 19, was hoping to finish his career with the Bears but it appears that won’t happen.

“I know Chicago wants to go a different route with me,’’ he said. “All I can say is thanks to the fans for the support. They’ve always been great to me, loyal. But I know right now they’re kind of parting ways with me.’’

Last modified on Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:05

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  • avatar

    As both a Bears (season tickets) and Bucs (Lovie) fan I know that Hester has a lot left in the tank, including SPEED. He had a great 2013 which could have been historical if 3 TD's weren't called back because of penalties. So, there's that. The question is price, not ability.
  • avatar

    I'm on the fence when it comes to Hester. I'd love to have the D. Hester from 3 years ago, but that's not what we're getting. I think McCluster brings a little more to the table since he can play WR, RB, KR and PR. If I were Licht I would take whichever one would take the cap friendlier contract AND draft a guy who could be our future KR/PR, either in this draft or next year's draft.
  • avatar

    This is a young mans game. I'd take a pass on Hester. I'm curious to see what Demps can do returning kick-offs.
  • avatar

    Hester would bring some credibility and become a valued asset only if he has anything left. As mjmoody pointed out; as with most of us, Hester's skills are in decline. But if Lovie is convinced he can be the weapon he was for a year or two it might be enough to give us a Special Teams based victory or two and bring a little excitement to the return game. But for me, I think a player who is strictly a return man is too much of a luxury on a team with a suspect roster. I'll take McCluster.
  • avatar

    This is a HORRIBLE idea. Ask your best-est Chicago fan buddy & they will tell you. Hester has lost a step. He is timid coming out of the end-zone. He fears contact. AND, HE FUMBLES the football. Several times last year in fact. How can the Bucs' waste valuable cap space on a specialist who does nothing else but returns, but doesn't do it well, and could give up a possession? Our Offense is already going to put our Defense back on the field too quickly in the FL Sun this year. We don't need a ST Ace(?) that will do it even faster.
  • avatar

    Hester "doesn't do it well"?? Have you not been following the NFL for the past 8 years? Devin Hester is the greatest return man in pro football history. How can you say he doesn't do it well? Taking back 19 touchdowns is incredible. Yes, Hester is not as fast as he was in 2007 or 2008, but when you have the choice between a 2nd year player in Eric Page or the greatest return man who still has some gas in the tank in Devin Hester, you would be nuts NOT to take the greatest return man the NFL has ever seen. Hester is certainly an upgrade, and we need upgrades all over the field.
  • avatar

    What else is he going to say...
  • avatar

    I hope Open Arms = Closed Wallet.....maybe we can call it the "open arms discount"....
  • avatar

    I think McCluster is the better deal because he can be our slot receiver for years to come and run back kicks too, as well as he is a local kid. If he'll give us a local discount and we can get Hester too for a few years that would be the best way to go. If Hester got hurt McCluster should step right in. If we just get Hester, keep Page too as his backup and develop Page as our slot receiver because he is tough, fast, and elusive, and showed real good hands last year. He just needs to be coached up on running precise routes and given lots of reps in preseason. I would not say that Demps cannot be a receiver because he was used there at times by the Gators. I can say Demps is not the answer as a returner.
  • avatar

    Doesnt hurt that hes a native Floridian as well....finishing his career at home might be what the Dr Ordered
  • avatar

    This could be an excellent addition. I have a feeling the whole offense will breath a sigh of relief when starting drives outside of the 30 yard line most of the day.
  • avatar

    The way Hester's face lit up when the other analyst on NFL Network mentioned the Bucs to Hester showed clearly Hester is convinced he will be a Buc next season. Also with that happening, I doubt Jeff Demps will be along for that much longer. Where Demp's main strength is speed or as a diversion he might be more valuable to another team. I love the potential of Demps, but he is not going to be a productive RB (where Tampa has Martin, James, Rainey) and I doubt he can convert to WR. Hopefully Hester gets to be suited up under Smith next season, would be exciting to see Glennon start drives in decent field position from time to time.
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