Bears part ways with longtime special teams star Devin Hester

Devin Hester doesn't expect to return to the Bears. (USATSI)
Devin Hester won't return to the Bears. (USATSI)

More NFL offseason: Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Pro Days | Top free agents

Devin Hester is days away from free agency but he doesn't expect the Bears to make an 11th-hour offer to keep him in Chicago.

"I know that Chicago wants to go a different route," he said Wednesday during an appearance on NFL Network. "All I can say is thanks to the fans for their support. They've always been great to me. Always been loyal. I couldn't have played for a better city. ... At the end of my career I do want to retire as a member of the Bears."

Later Thursday, Bears' general manager Phil Emery officially confirmed Hester's belief.

"For the past eight seasons we have been honored to have Devin Hester as a part of our organization," Emery said in a statement. "While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers.

"Not only is Devin a special player, he is also an exceptional person. He is a great teammate, husband and father. Devin represented the organization off-the-field as well as he did on it. When his career is over, he will always be a welcome member of the Bears family. We thank him for his dedication and wish him and his family all the best."

Hester, a second-round pick in 2006, was technically drafted as a defensive back, but it was his athleticism that made him an intriguing prospect. He immediately excelled as a returner, taking three punts and two kickoffs back for touchdowns as a rookie.

In his eight-year career with the Bears, he has 19 touchdown returns, which tied him with Deion Sanders for the NFL record. As a receiver, the 31-year-old didn't have a reception his rookie season or in 2013, but totaled 217 over the intervening six seasons, including a career-high 57 in 2009.

Asked about Hester at the NFL combine last month, Emery said, "He was productive. He was a productive kick returner. He did a good job."

That's probably underselling it a bit, but the problem is that Hester didn't do much beyond that. And in a league where special teams has been minimized, mostly for safety reasons, Hester becomes less valuable.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories