Hester ‘bothered’ by how Bears treated him

Devin Hester has 14 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons this season.
Devin Hester has 14 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons this season.

Credit: Ann Heisenfelt

Credit: Ann Heisenfelt

Devin Hester didn’t depart from the Chicago Bears on great terms.

After eight years of service, the franchise elected to move in another direction, which left perhaps the game’s greatest returner of all-time feeling shunned and looking for a new team.

“Chicago didn’t offer me anything,” Hester said. “They didn’t offer me no contract. They didn’t call me or nothing. They didn’t call me, period, pretty much. I didn’t hear from Chicago.”

He signed a three-year, $9-million contract with the Falcons on March 20 and has since resurrected his career as a wide receiver and broke the league record for most returns for a touchdown.

“Now, we have to try to stop him and we know that won’t be easy,” Chicago coach Marc Trestman said.

Hester is trying to take a business-as-usual approach as the Falcons (2-3) are set to host the Chicago Bears (2-3) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

“I just had to take it the way it was,” Hester said. “It was pretty much simple.”

But the business-side of the league can spur veterans on to perform against their former teams. Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith was open about wanting to put on a show against his former team, the Carolina Panthers, earlier this season.

Hester would like nothing more than to return a punt for a touchdown and catch a few passes against the Bears, who took him with the 57th overall pick on the 2006 draft.

“It bothers every player that’s been around in this league and has played football,” Hester said. “If you’ve been with a team for over six, seven, eight years, if you’ve been there for a long time, it bothers you when your contract is up and the team doesn’t even come to offer you anything.

“So it bothered me, but at the same time everything happens for a reason. I believe in God and like I said everything happens for a reason. Sometimes what you want might not be the best fit for you.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan knows that Hester wants to put a show for the Bears in general, Trestman, quarterback Jay Cutler and general manager Phil Emery, in particular.

“I’m sure that it will be different for Devin this week,” Ryan said. “He played a long time in Chicago and has a lot of friends and former teammates that he played with up there. I’m sure that will probably be on his mind.”

Hester has been seamlessly integrated into the Falcons offense, while also serving as the punt and kickoff returner.

Hester has 14 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown. He also has two rushes for 23 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown run.

He has eight punt returns for 115 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown return against Tampa Bay. He has 12 kickoff returns for 290 yards.

They Falcons expect him to continue his high level of play against the Bears.

“I think once the ball kicks off and we start playing, that he’s such a competitor, that he’s going to give you his best regardless,” Ryan said.

Hester is enjoying playing with Ryan after having a bumpy relationship with Cutler.

“He puts in the time before and after practice with his players, his receivers most definitely,” Hester said. “He spends more time with them … in the meeting room when we’re going over (he wants our opinion on) things that we can do to make a play even better.”

With wide receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas, Hester normally has a favorable matchup. After joining the Falcons, it didn’t take him long to realized that he would fit into the offensive scheme.

“I’m just a guy getting opportunities to make plays and going out and trying to do it,” Hester said.

Chicago special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who was with the Falcons from 1997-2006, must determine if he’ll punt to Hester.

“He’s a heck of a football player and we want to keep the ball out of his hands,” Cutler said. “I’d rather not see him field kicks and catching Matt Ryan passes.”

Near the end, Hester had a sense that things were coming to an end for him in the Windy City.

“You could slowly, but surely see it coming,” Hester said. “I saw (reporters) writing stories about it. You could tell it was coming.”

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