Devin Hester upset returners out of Pro Bowl

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As you’d imagine, one of the most celebrated return specialists in the history of the game is unhappy that the NFL has decided that return specialists have as much place at the Pro Bowl as slow-witted quarterbacks and easily blocked defensive tackles.

Devin Hester has 17 career touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns, which have helped him earn three selections to the Pro Bowl. It’s unlikely that the Bear will be making any more trips to the game now that the league has put the kibosh on him and his peers, a decision that Hester responded to after hearing the news on Wednesday.

“That was one of my goals for this season. I won’t make the Pro Bowl. They can’t do that,” Hester said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “If you are taking the returner out of the Pro Bowl, you’re taking two positions out. That will suck for me. They are trying to change up the whole game of football and they’re messing with people’s jobs and lives.”

This isn’t the first step the NFL has taken to de-emphasize the kickoff and those who see it as a harbinger of its eventual exclusion from the game are probably on the right track,  so this might not be the last time Hester’s upset by a decision the league makes. Our biggest problem is that by making a change billed at making the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game,” the league makes it possible to ignore players who thrill fans the most during the season.

Kickoff returns have dropped in importance thanks to previous rules changes, but punt returns remain a crucial part of games. Doing it well is something that should be applauded rather than treated like a cute but unimportant skill.

Whether it is Hester scoring six times in 2007 or Patritck Peterson returning four punts for touchdowns in 2011, there are years when returners are among the most exciting players of the year and the most deserving of a place in a game designed for the best players in a given season. Those players won’t pop up every year, but there should be a spot for them in the league’s all-star game when they do.

35 responses to “Devin Hester upset returners out of Pro Bowl

  1. I’m surprised the players’ union agrees to this….doesn’t this affect the players ability to ahieve incentives/bonuses?

  2. I agree. If it part of the game, why not let it be as good as possible? Those plays can be very exciting. Ad teams were getting good at it. The Bears in fact relied on it for field position it seemed.

  3. Hester has a right to be upset…some players love there job and love to show case there talents..the NFL is going threw so many changes so quickly this last decade seems like todays players always have to adjust to a new rule about some sort of contact then get fined on border line calls ..the leaders of todays game care only about the money i think they need sit down together and re evaluate rule changes being done so quickly/or drasticlly..

  4. Returner is the only way Hester can make the Pro Bowl.

    Must have an incentive in his contract for making the Pro Bowl – that’s why he’s upset.

  5. He means “messing with his summer plans for a free Hawaii vacation” /sarcasm.

    Seriously though, while us the viewers might have complaints about the decreasing value the Pro Bowl is to watch, I’m sure there is a certain pride amongst players to get selected to the Pro Bowl and have that one more achievement on their football bucket list. I can understand his disappointment in making it even harder for certain positional players to earn a trip.

  6. It’s been pretty clear for a while now that Goodell has every intention of slowly removing the return game from football entirely. This is just the next step in the quest he started a year ago. Next year it’ll be another step towards making returners insignificant in the name of making the game “safer.” I’m expecting something like “automatic fair catch on punt returns as soon as a potential tackler gets within 10 yards” or something equally asinine.

  7. Someone just realized his career is over.

    You should’ve learned how to play WR.

  8. He should be upset…he’s made all his money in the NFL returning kicks..that means he’s gotta put actual time and effort into a position he can’t even play…which of course is WR cuz we know he can’t play CB.

  9. This is stupid. Special Teams is one third of the game.

    A kickoff return TD is one of the most exciting things in sports.

    You never expect anything from it but you see a guy make a cut and get in the open. Then he gets a block and you are screaming “Go. Go. Go.” And there’s always that one guy chasing him who makes a last ditch effort to get the return guy down.

  10. I’ve been critical of some PFT articles before, but this article, especially the last 2 paragraphs, couldn’t have been written any better.

    Returners are a huge part of the game, and in my opinion it’s a huge injustice to them to take them out of the Pro Bowl.

  11. Devin Hester is just a whiny little puke anyways. Remember his comments last season about not wanting to play anymore? He needs to be quiet.

  12. He is exactly right. They don’t care about safety, they care about liability and lawsuits like a person swatting at flies they can’t see because they aren’t there yet. It is a shame they are killing the game I, no, WE have loved for years one rule change at a time. #IhateGoodell

  13. They should still get voted in, just won’t be fulfilling that duty in the ProBowl. These atheletes can play more than one position. Most are part-time DBs, WRs, or RBs.

  14. I hate the idea that the return game is slowly being extracted from the NFL. It’s a part of the game, deal with it. It’s a contact sport, remove the idea of the wedge, fine. But dont remove the entire play. Go back and look at how many games were decided by or had the momentum turn based on this one single play.

  15. Agree with Vdogg, the return game is one third of football. In lieu of field goals and punts, whenever a team wants to go for a field goal, regardless of field position have the field goal kicker and a holder spot the ball on the 50 yard line unopposed and go for it. (This eliminates the fake field goal and fake punts too where people could get hurt). Then in lieu of a punt let the other team have the ball at their own 25 and go from there. No longer needing punters, long snappers, gunners, additional special team players, etc. the NFL could then reduce the number of players to around 40 per team. Less injuries, less payroll, etc

  16. I love how people are taking shots at the guy because he isn’t a star at another position. I don’t think that he really fit one all that well, in that he seems to see things and move like an RB, but is too small for that position. It doesn’t matter anyway; the league has a long history of guys that were stars primarily as return men. Mel Grey, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Glyn Milburn, and Dante Hall all come to mind. Hester isn’t the first guy to make a living that way, but is happens to be the best.

    This is a lousy thing to do to a group of guys that work just as hard as anybody else, and often have to learn a bunch of odds and ends stuff from several different offensive positions too. Hester has a right to be upset, and a right to talk about it. A return is the most exciting play in the game, and guys who excel at it should be rewarded just like guys at any other position.

  17. Stupidest rule change in history of football was moving kickoff back up to 40yl. Need to move it back to 35 at least if not the 30 and let them play. Outcomes of games, seasons and careers have been affected by special teams and kick-off returns. Just think “Music City Miracle”. If they were kicking from the 40 at the time, it probably sales out of end zone and game over.

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