The NFL refers to kickoff returns as the most dangerous play in the game, and has changed rules to try to minimize them.
To Devin Hester, that’s almost like an unfair restraint of trade.
The Falcons return man said he’s personally never been hurt while returning a kickoff, and since he’s really good at it, he’s naturally skeptical about the change. The league has tweaked rules this year, allowing touchbacks to be placed at the 25 to try to encourage more teams to not return kickoffs.
“It’s like taking away a job from people,” Hester said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I got a concussion making a block at receiver. But I never got hurt taking hits back on kickoffs.”
Hester’s currently rehabbing a toe injury which apparently wasn’t suffered on a return. He has five career kickoff return touchdowns, and a 92-yarder in the Super Bowl.
So with a 24.9-yard career average on kickoff returns, you’ll pardon him if he’s not interested in a free crack at the 25-yard line.
“If we’re clicking, we can bring it back from pretty much anywhere; real talk,’’ Hester said. “If our return game is doing good, it’s pretty much the green light. The deepest I’ve fielded one [with Falcons] has been 7 or 8 yards in. The normal is about 4 or 5 yards deep.
“As far as how the other team kicks off, it’s all going to depend on one type of returner you have back there. If they believe in their coverage team they are going to try it.’’
Hester’s hoping they do. His job depends on it.