Devin Hester keeps a little checklist of all the NFL teams, marking off the ones he’s scored a return touchdown against, and remembering those who have kept him out of the end zone. Headed into Sunday’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, a quick look at that checklist has Hester feeling like he may have some sort of payback coming his way for one that was taken away in the past.
Devin Hester keeps a little checklist of all the NFL teams, marking off the ones he’s scored a return touchdown against, and remembering those who have kept him out of the end zone.
Headed into Sunday’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, a quick look at that checklist has Hester feeling like he may have some sort of payback coming his way for one that was taken away in the past.
“I had one called back against them my rookie year in the playoffs. It was nice to get one for real this year, but now it’s the playoffs again,” Hester said quietly while trying to hide out in the locker room Thursday. “This time of year, everybody turns it up a notch…. Yeah, I have a little checklist of all the teams. There are a couple of teams out there I haven’t been able to return one against, and some that I owe.”
Hester’s punt return for a touchdown against Seattle in the 2006 playoffs was called back on a block-in-the-back penalty. The Bears went on to win that game 27-24 in overtime, and eventually lost to Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLI despite an opening-game kickoff return for a TD by the rookie Hester.
Since then, he’s gone on to become the NFL’s all-time leading return man with 14 touchdowns, not including his Super Bowl shuffle to the end zone and his 108-yard missed-field-goal return. It does count his nifty 89-yard punt return with just under two minutes to go in this year’s Week 6 matchup of the Bears and Seahawks.
It wasn’t enough to propel Chicago to a comeback win, but it did give Seattle another taste of what the best return man in history can do in the matter of a couple of seconds.
“Obviously, he’s a great player that’s done everything you can do. We’ve got to respect that,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “Devin has been such a dynamic player that you certainly have to take special consideration to make sure you know where he is and what he’s going to do.”
However, Carroll also said he will kick to Hester, ignoring the fact that several coaches who have stuck to that philosophy have paid the price. Hester understands.
“I expect that out of coaches,” he said. “In playoff situations, you give up good field position, you put yourself in a bad predicament. And you don’t want to do that in playoff time.”
He also relishes the idea that he will be able to field a few more punts and kickoffs after chasing plenty of balls out of bounds as teams avoided him once again this season.
“Yeah, of course,” he said. “Those are going to be more opportunities out there for me.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder has three return TDs this season, and even though they are all on punt returns, he has been uplifted by the fact that he was moved back to kickoff return man and has spent less time in the offensive huddle.
He also has four receiving touchdowns this year, and he acts like he really doesn’t care how he helps this team win. As long as in the end, that’s just what he’s doing.
Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.