Skins want to add Bears' Devin Hester to the hit stick

There is no more dangerous return man in football than Chicago's Devin Hester, the fifth-year player from Miami who last week returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown, the 13th kick or punt return for a score in his career. That ties him with former Redskins standout Brian Mitchell for the most all-time. The difference: Mitchell returned 1,070 kicks and punts in his career. Hester has returned 262.

"We have our hands full," said Coach Mike Shanahan, who watched Hester score two special teams touchdowns - one on a punt, one on a kickoff -- against his Denver Broncos in 2007 at Soldier Field.

Shanahan's team, though, might be more equipped to handle the task. The Redskins rank third in the NFL in kickoff return average, allowing opponents only 17.4 yards per return. The longest kickoff return against Washington this year is a paltry 27 yards; every other team in the league has allowed at least one return of 30 yards, and seven teams allow kicks to be returned an average of 27 yards or more.

The Redskins have not fared as well on punt coverage, allowing 10.8 yards per return, which ranks 24th in the league. But their coverage teams are gaining a reputation for delivering punishing hits. In different weeks, Mike Sellers, Lorenzo Alexander and most recently Chris Wilson made tackles that have jarred the opposing team and fired-up the Redskins - leading to a competition for who can dish out the most.

"We do the dirty work," Sellers said. "You got to find ways to let people know you can still play. Chris Wilson is figuring out me and Lorenzo's secrets, so we got to keep him out of the mix."

During the course of a conversation on how the Redskins have been able to free up for so many crushing special-teams tackles, Sellers pulled something called a "hit stick" out of his locker - basically a piece of wood made to look primitive or tribal. On it were three numbers - a 45, then a 97, then a 45.

The methodology: Someone who delivers a major blow on special teams gets their jersey number on the stick and then gets to keep it in their locker. The catch: Such a blow must come in a win.

So Sellers's No. 45 is on the stick twice for tackles he made against Dallas and Green Bay. Alexander's No. 97 is on for a ferocious tackle against Philadelphia. But Wilson, who delivered a powerful hit against Indianapolis, is still waiting to see his No. 95, because he hasn't come through in a win.

"Me and 'Zo plan on being the only ones on it," Sellers said.

How, though, can one team free up so many different players?

"When you put big plays on film like that, it has coaches worried about guys," Wilson said. "I know they're worried about Lorenzo, for example. So I take it on myself to say, 'OK, if they're going to double 'Zo, that's disrespectful to me. And vice versa. [If] they [are] going to double me, then Mike Sellers is like, 'Then that's disrespectful to me.' That works all the way down the line. The entire unit has that same attitude."

Among punt returners with at least five attempts, Hester ranks third in the NFL with a 17.0-yard average - one spot behind Washington rookie Brandon Banks, who averages 19.4 yards per return.

Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox are sharing the kick returning for Chicago. Manning averages 27.3 yards on 13 returns.

"The great ones, though, are going to make plays," Shanahan said. "You take the number of returns [Hester's] had and the number of touchdowns, you just kind of shake your head. You don't even think it's possible."

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