Now that Devin Hester has become the most prolific kick returner in NFL history in less than five seasons, the question is: How far will he extend the record it took Brian Mitchell 14 years to establish?
Hester can probably answer the question better than anyone else, and he's certain that he'll be increasing the record soon and often.
"Right now, I can say that the Chicago Bears are the best punt-return team to ever do this, and we're not going to stop," Hester said. "There are going to be plenty more, so don't dwell on this record breaker because there are going to be a lot more than this. I guarantee you that."
Hester's 64-yard punt-return TD Monday night gave him a combined total of 14 TDs on kick returns: 10 on punts and four on kickoffs. In his first five seasons, Mitchell had six punt-return touchdowns but none on kickoffs.
Hester's return against the Vikings also moved him into a tie with Eric Metcalf for the NFL record for career punt-return touchdowns. Metcalf, who played 13 seasons, got his 10 punt-return TDs on 351 attempts. Hester got his 10th on his 174th attempt.
Mitchell scored his 13 touchdowns in 223 games. Hester has 14 in 74 games. Mitchell had 1,070 career returns. Hester has 286.
While Hester is supremely confident about his ability to get into the end zone, he has always been quick to credit the other 10 members of the return team, plus special teams coordinator Dave Toub and assistant Chris Tabor.
"I know the success is from those guys," Hester said of his blockers. "I hate sitting here and taking all the glory. I wish those other 10 guys were up here and you were asking them questions, because they deserve to be up here. I love them. All the glory goes to them. The other 10 guys, they wanted it more than me. I wanted it bad. But I could tell they wanted it badder than me. And that's why I'm glad that God put me on a team like this."
Bears players are genuinely pleased that Hester is their teammate, and it's not just because he can change field position in the blink of an eye. His teammates know how hard Hester works and how humble he is.
"He's been flirting with it for the past three or four games," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We knew it was just a matter of time. He's been working hard for it. It's such an accomplishment at such a young stage in his career. He's a game changer, and I'm glad he's on our team."
For some NFL players, blocking on special teams is a chore or a necessary evil. But for Bears players, it's an opportunity to be part of something special.
"You want to get on that team when you have a returner like Devin," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You want to be a part of history, and that's what happened [Monday] night.
"And that's who he is. He's a humble guy, a great guy. He'll do anything for you. He's one of those guys that you want up top representing, in this case, the returns. He's a special player. He's to the point now where every time he touches the football, you think that he can score."
NOTES AND QUOTES
"It was a surprise," Smith said. "All through the week, they didn't say that he was out right away, but I assumed he was. At the end of the week they said he was out, so we weren't really preparing for him. I assumed out meant out. But you have to prepare as much as anything for the quarterback position, and that's what we did." ...
Defensive end Julius Peppers' first-quarter interception of a Favre pass, which was deflected by Henry Melton, led to the Bears' first points, on the first of four Robbie Gould field goals. It also made amends for Peppers' gaffe two plays earlier, when his offside infraction negated an interception by Tim Jennings.
"It was important for me personally," said Peppers, who was able to laugh about it after the game. "It allowed me to make up for a huge mistake that I made. As far as the team, it was also big. It kind of started to turn the momentum."
RB Matt Forte had 92 yards on just 17 carries, his fourth most productive rushing day of the season. ...
WR Johnny Knox's 67-yard reception was his second of the season, but this one went for a touchdown, his third of the season. ...
DE Israel Idonije picked up his eighth sack of the season, tying him with Peppers for the team lead.
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