Devin Hester's revival a snaps decision

Devin Hester, determined to have a breakout season as a receiver, only handled punt returns on special teams.

He left the kickoff-return duties to Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning, but he couldn't resist temptation just a few games into the season.

''I saw some things in the return game that I wished I was in, and I felt I could have done some things different,'' Hester said. ''Then I was like, 'Let me give this a shot.'''

In the first two games, the Bears averaged just 23.3 and 28.3 yards per kickoff return. Hester, meanwhile, was playing virtually every offensive snap at receiver, yet he managed just six catches for 110 yards and one touchdown in the first three games.

Around that time, Hester broached the idea of handling kickoffs to coaches.

''They came together,'' Hester said, ''and they thought it was a great idea.''

Hester's snap count steadily declined, according to Pro Football Focus. He played in more than 90 percent of the offensive snaps in the first four games, but his playing time has steadily dipped since then.

Against the Minnesota Vikings, Hester handled kickoffs for the first time this season and returned two for a combined 100 yards. In that game, he played in 48 percent of the offensive snaps, according to PFF. Against the Miami Dolphins, Hester played in 39.7 percent of the snaps.

For the season, Hester has now played in 67.8 percent of the snaps, according to PFF, 7 percent fewer than last season. By contrast, Bears receiver Johnny Knox has played in 86.4 percent of all offensive snaps.

In past seasons, Hester said he was more focused on receiver, which meant watching film of other players at the position as well as defensive backs.

''I wanted to master the receiver thing,'' Hester said. ''Now, I'm comfortable.''

Hester's numbers haven't been overwhelming. He's tied for third on the team with 28 catches, and he's fifth with 284 receiving yards. But Hester said he likes the consistency of knowing he'll get chances to return punts and kickoffs.

''In the return game, you know you're going to get the ball,'' he said.

Hester said the coaches don't limit him to a certain number of snaps each game.

''It depends on how the game is going,'' he said. ''You can't really go into a game and say, 'You're going to play 35 snaps.'''

Hester said he is fine with being a hybrid player, a playmaker.

''I just want to be a key factor to the game, in any phase,'' he said. ''Now, I have a chance to have a big return game or a big receiver game. I'm blessed to have two opportunities.

''I will do whatever the team wants and needs. The biggest thing is, we're winning.''

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