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Bears have wide-open competition to replace Devin Hester

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After losing the best kick returner in NFL history in free agency, the Bears are planning for a significant competition in training camp to find his replacement.

Devin Hester is now in Atlanta, which means Chicago is looking to fill both the punt return job and the kickoff return job. Among the candidates are Eric Weems, Micheal Spurlock, Armanti Edwards, Chris Williams and Michael Ford. Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis says he’s confident that the team will be in good hands, no matter which option he chooses.

We have a lot of experience back there,” DeCamillis told the team’s website. “There’s a lot of talent and that’s really what you want when you’re evaluating.”

Weems would appear to be the favorite, considering how well he played as a return man during his tenure with the Falcons. Weems has spelled Hester as a kickoff returner at times in the last two years, and his previous experience includes a Pro Bowl season in 2010 in which Weems averaged 12.8 yards on punt returns, 27.5 yards on kickoff returns and had a touchdown doing each, plus another kickoff return touchdown in the playoffs. Weems says he hopes to win the job.

“Most definitely I’ve missed doing it,” Weems said. “It’s still in the blood. I love doing it. That’s what I was in Atlanta doing. That’s what I made the Pro Bowl doing. There’s no question in my mind that I love doing it. . . . I’ve been patient for the last two years and now I feel like it’s my turn, and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” Weems said.

Spurlock and Edwards both signed early this month after Domenik Hixon, who was also expected to vie for the return job, suffered a torn ACL in Organized Team Activities.

“[Hixon] was one of the guys we were really looking forward to seeing,” DeCamillis said. “It’s just a tough break for him. He’s been a very productive guy in the league as far as a returner. It’s just one of those things that happens. It’s too bad for him and too bad for us.”

Losing Hixon provided an opportunity for Spurlock and Edwards, who have both had some experience returning kicks in the NFL. Williams doesn’t have much NFL experience, but he’s the all-time record holder for kick return touchdowns in a season in the Canadian Football League, having run back six kicks for scores in 2012. Ford likewise doesn’t have much NFL experience but was second in the SEC in kickoff returns in 2012, his final year at LSU.

One of those players will earn the job in Chicago. With the departure of Hester, the Bears’ return men will have big shoes to fill.

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38 Responses to “Bears have wide-open competition to replace Devin Hester”
  1. hammerhead5573 says: Jul 1, 2014 12:58 PM

    For the love of a God, if the Bears kick to Hester when they play this season, I will flip. He may not have been a great wide receiver but his kick returns and punt returns were some of the best I have ever seen. I wish him the best.

  2. bassplucker says: Jul 1, 2014 1:02 PM

    Weems kinda sucks, actually. In fact, if any of those younger guys shows anything he’s probably on the way out. He brings nothing to the table as a WR and with the new coaching regime, the days of keeping guys on the roster who can’t do anything but STs are pretty much over.

  3. Heretopissuoff says: Jul 1, 2014 1:02 PM

    Khalil Mack>Barr and clowney
    Gonna miss Devin Hester destroying the Vikings. Now he’s gonna rot in Atlanta with those losers matt Ryan and mike smith

  4. silverandblack052099 says: Jul 1, 2014 1:08 PM

    I don’t think the Bears “Lost” Hester in free agency. They made little attempt to keep him.

  5. malek773 says: Jul 1, 2014 1:10 PM

    Hester is going to thrive in ATL. Playing half his season on artifical turf in a dome is great for a guy like him. I was sad to see him leave Chicago but I get that its not smart bussiness to pay a guy 3M a year for a position the NFL is trying to make obsolete.

  6. hyzers says: Jul 1, 2014 1:10 PM

    Whoever wins the job is definitely going to earn their paycheck. Having the worst defense in the NFL tends to do that.

  7. jazsrt says: Jul 1, 2014 1:14 PM

    Remember when Hester was the number 1 (or 2) receiver?

    Gosh i’m glad that regime is gone.

    I do wish Hester the best of luck in ATL. should have some great opportunities in a dome to get his record. (just not against the Bears.)

  8. bonnovi says: Jul 1, 2014 1:19 PM

    Can you really replace the talent that Hester had on Special Teams?

  9. purpleguy says: Jul 1, 2014 1:25 PM

    The guy may have been a lousy WR, but he sure could return kicks — glad he’s out of the NFCN.

  10. ragnarthemagnificent says: Jul 1, 2014 1:26 PM

    And to think the NFL is going to do away with kick-offs, for shame. Its one of the most exciting plays in the game and literally has fans on the edge of their seat.

  11. ariani1985 says: Jul 1, 2014 1:29 PM

    and nothing of value will be lost!!!!

  12. monsters3493 says: Jul 1, 2014 1:29 PM

    If he could return kicks it would be great but with the rules how many returns will he get when the flies over the goal posts. At least in chicago the weather made the ball stay in the field of play

  13. walkinginthewasteland says: Jul 1, 2014 1:56 PM

    Who are they going to get to fill the job of dropping passes after running a pattern and getting wide open?

  14. crazycane says: Jul 1, 2014 2:00 PM

    Mark my words, it will be Chris Williams

  15. ktm300xcwe says: Jul 1, 2014 2:03 PM

    Walter Payton, Neal Anderson, and Devin Hester:
    VIKING KILLERS!

  16. weepingjebus says: Jul 1, 2014 2:09 PM

    I miss kickoff returns. What a great, often momentum shifting play you got with a good return. Many examples, but my favorite is the Patriots coming back to beat the Packers after 300 lb. Dan Connolly somehow nearly went the distance in a game where the Patriots looked ready to roll over and die. Yes, there’s a chance folks get hurt on returns, but there’s a chance of that in every play.

  17. tommiepickles says: Jul 1, 2014 2:21 PM

    With a diminshing return game in the nfl, theres not much to replace.

  18. dukeeddy says: Jul 1, 2014 2:29 PM

    It doesn’t matter who the Bears choose to replace Hester, it will be a definite reduction in performance from that position. No one better than Hester in the return game.

  19. claimersays says: Jul 1, 2014 2:31 PM

    Hester is getting LOMG IN THE TOOTH to be JUST a returner anymore. I claim one and done in the ATL

  20. emoney826 says: Jul 1, 2014 2:33 PM

    Hester was talented at returns but why doesn’t anyone ever give credit to the Bears special teams blocking? Good blocking sets up good returns but nobody ever mentions them.

  21. jgedgar70 says: Jul 1, 2014 3:01 PM

    “Losing Hixon provided an opportunity for Spurlock and Edwards, who have both had some experience returning kicks in the NFL.”

    That’s not quite right. It should read, “Losing Hixon provided an opportunity for Spurlock, who has had some experience returning kicks in the NFL, and for Edwards, who has some experience dropping kicks in the NFL.”

  22. bassplucker says: Jul 1, 2014 3:13 PM

    Williams is blazing fast, can play WR better than Hester ever could, and goes back with Trestman to the CFL days. I’m with others here who think he has the inside track.

  23. simonator917 says: Jul 1, 2014 4:35 PM

    Yeah, good luck with that.

  24. deafcone says: Jul 1, 2014 4:41 PM

    it doesn’t matter. with a prima dona china doll at QB the Bears aren’t going ay where with or without Hester.

  25. chinahand11 says: Jul 1, 2014 5:00 PM

    They didn’t know what to do with Hester at UMiami, so he mostly played DB along with KR, very little WR or RB. I laughed when they made him wide-out. He had never proven he has the hands. I sure do wish him luck in ATL (unless he plays my team) because he sure is fun to watch, burning down the field and leaving frustrated ST guys in his wake.

  26. 2difshoe says: Jul 1, 2014 5:47 PM

    bonnovi says:
    Jul 1, 2014 1:19 PM

    Can you really replace the talent that Hester had on Special Team?

    —————————————————

    Is Justin Bieber really a man ?

  27. larryboodry says: Jul 1, 2014 6:12 PM

    I’d like to see what Williams can do. Don’t let it be Weems, please.

  28. wnstonchill says: Jul 1, 2014 6:43 PM

    For all of the people whining about the fact that the Bears didn’t choose to bring Hester back, get it though your heads……. It was a good business decision to not re-sign him! They needed the 4 Million in salary cap space to shore up the defense which was the priority and that’s what they did. Besides that, it makes no sense to pay a player that much on the down side of his career. Love what Hester did for the Bears for years, he’s probably the best ever to do it, but, it’s time to move on!

  29. vicnocal says: Jul 1, 2014 8:12 PM

    God I’m gonna miss Hester. There’s never been anything like him in the NFL. He was truly RRrriidiculous.

    But it’s probably a smart move for the Bears, given that he’s getting $3-4million a year from Atlanta and that corporate stooge Goodell has reduced kickoffs to a virtual afterthought.

    p.s. Hester wasn’t THAT bad as a WR, you just don’t want him being your #1 or even #2 option. But he had something like 70rec for 900yds one year, you can’t get those numbers if you’re a total bum.

  30. Paul M. says: Jul 1, 2014 8:19 PM

    “Is Justin Bieber really a man ?”

    I don’t know but he’s the new quarterback in Cleveland.

    Oh wait. That’s Johnny Bieber I’m thinking of. I get those two mixed up.

  31. jameslongstaffe says: Jul 1, 2014 8:28 PM

    Chris Williams is awesome, amazing athlete with speed as returner & receiver. I expect him to win the job & contribute on O as receiver.

  32. bearshaterseverywhere says: Jul 1, 2014 9:14 PM

    Chris Willams will toast any of those listed above.

    Weems needs to be cut! No more penalties!

    GO BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. bearshaterseverywhere says: Jul 1, 2014 9:15 PM

    Chris Willams will toast any of those listed above.

    Weems needs to be cut! No more penalties!

    GO BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Larry Rules, btw!

  34. mtnman4 says: Jul 1, 2014 9:30 PM

    To: jgedgsr70…please get your facts right! Armanti Edwards did not have a fumble in the past 2 years at Carolina despite getting pummeled due to the lack of special teams blocking in front of him. No, he’s not Hester, but he is a sure handed returner with 4.4 speed.

  35. calvinthegreat81 says: Jul 1, 2014 10:12 PM

    Well, maybe this incompetent franchise should have retained Hester. One of the only decent players that was on this team. Good luck with your last place finish and 6-10 record.

  36. icebowler says: Jul 1, 2014 10:43 PM

    Da Bears misused Hester of offence. They should have lined him up in the very deep backfield and tossed him a twenty yard lateral and he could treat it as a kick return.

    Just kidding (I think):)

    As a Packer fan, I’ m glad we don’t have to deal with him twice a year anymore.

  37. bearshaterseverywhere says: Jul 2, 2014 10:26 AM

    6-10 is what the Lions CONSISTENTLY finish at or worse. Everyone knows it there kid.

    Worst Franchise in the NFCN

    2 seasons above .500 since 2000, 0 – 16 in 2008.

    Finally beat the Bears( who own the Lions for years and years) twice in one season and they still finish behind them in the division.

    Garbage, pathetic, terrible football!

    Calvinthegreat81 is a crybaby!

  38. ninjapleazee says: Jul 2, 2014 12:35 PM

    Hester was not worth the money to keep him and he knew that. Only Atlanta was idiotic enough to pay him that much just to return kicks. Since the new kicking rule applied all the past kick off returners have diminished roles. Good luck Hester. And to the idiotic lions fan, I would be talking since you replaced a cry baby coach with a puppet,

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