Hester’s return decline a trade-off

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said he anticipated Devin Hester’s fall from grace as a kick returner after doubling up as Chicago’s No. 1 receiver.

“There has never been a No. 1 receiver and a No. 1 kick returner. If there’s never been one, there’s probably a reason for that,” Angelo said. “We wanted to escalate his playing time and that’s the course we chose to go down, and his returns did suffer.”

Angelo doesn’t regret it because Hester finished with 665 yards on 51 catches in his first full season as a receiver. No other Bears wide receiver had even 450 yards.

“The one thing we know about Devin, and he showed it at receiver, is he is a playmaker,” Angelo said. “When you get a playmaker, you want to make sure you get him the ball the best way you can to make as many plays as he can on Sunday.”

Hester, who smashed NFL records for returns his first two seasons, was benched as Chicago’s kick returner at midseason and finished 23rd in punt returns (6.2 average). Danieal Manning replaced Hester on kickoffs and led the NFL (29.7). Manning will continue to lighten Hester’s load next year.

“His plate was full there for a while,” coach Lovie Smith said Monday of Hester. “We think we have a happy medium for him now as a punt returner and for him to continue to develop as a receiver.”