Hester’s rehabilitation being closely watched

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 18: Wide receiver Devin Hester #17 of the Atlanta Falcons returns a punt for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at the Georgia Dome on September 18, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 18: Wide receiver Devin Hester #17 of the Atlanta Falcons returns a punt for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at the Georgia Dome on September 18, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons returner Devin Hester is attending the offseason program and receiving rehab treatments from trainer Marty Lauzon after undergoing foot and toe surgery in January.

His recovery time was slated to be between three and six months, but the Falcons are just hopeful that he can return before training camp in late July.

“He’s able to do certain things, but he can’t fully do it all,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I don’t know that I have a timeline for it, but we’re hopeful that it’s prior to camp. But as far as OTAs, I don’t know. That toe has got to be right, and we’re not going to put him out there until it is.”

Quinn knows that if one of the game’s great returners can recovery, the Falcons will have a special weapon to combat the new touchback rule that provides for the ball to come out to the 25-yard line.

If Hester, 33, recovers, the Falcons’ strategy to combat the new rule will be heavily impacted.

Hester, who spent most of last season on the team’s short-term injured reserve, played in only five games and averaged 26.1 yards on nine kickoff returns.

In 2014, Hester’s 62-yard punt return against Tampa Bay was his 20th career return touchdown, which broke a record held by former Falcons returner Deion Sanders.

If Hester can make it back, Quinn may be inclined to give him the green light no matter how deep the kickoff.

“There are special players like Dev and other returners around the league, they’ll still get green-lighted,” Quinn said. “Here’s a guy who is on the club for this unique reason.”

The Falcons drafted wide receiver Devin Fuller in the seventh round in the NFL draft. He was a successful kickoff and punt returner at UCLA.

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