Halas Hall Report: Wednesday

There is a lot going on Wednesday at Halas Hall, including Devin Hester tipping his hat to Oakland's coverage units ... Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck knows all about dealing with a Super Bowl hangover ... All of that plus the first injury report of the week.

Hester definitely disappointed with his lack of production against Oakland
Nobody disputes the fact that Devin Hester is the most dangerous return man in the NFL, and both the Eagles in Week 7 and the Lions in Week 8 went out of their way to keep every punt and kickoff out of his hands at all costs. However, Oakland's Lane Kiffin told the Chicago media that he would challenge Hester in Week 10, although not many experts believed the first-year head coach would actually follow through on that proclamation. But Kiffin's coverage units proved up to the task, holding Hester to a total of 48 yards on eight combined punt- and kick-return attempts.

Perhaps Hester was a little rusty since neither Philadelphia nor Detroit so much as gave him a chance to work his magic, but that didn't make last Sunday's humbling performance any easier to swallow.

WR Devin Hester
Paul Sakuma/AP Images

"It was [disappointing] because we have so much high expectations for our return game," Hester said Wednesday before practice at Halas Hall. "And unfortunately, we weren't able to come up with any big runs. But things happen. That's why you have practice. We're going to evaluate this week and learn from our mistakes, and hopefully we'll get it better next week."

Appearing somewhat impressed with the Raiders and the energy they showed on special teams, Hester was asked if the struggles in the return game Sunday were more a product of his teammates' inability to spring him for a big-gainer or Oakland's coverage units backing up Kiffin's bold talk.

"I think it was just more of what they were doing," he said. "They have a great punter (Shane Lechler), great kicker (Sebastian Janikowski), and that plays a big toll of the return game. They came out and did their assignments and did everything that needed to be done, and they came out very successful with it."

Hasselbeck knows exactly what the Bears are going through this season
There has been a lot of speculation around the Windy City as to whether or not the Bears are dealing with somewhat of a Super Bowl hangover this year. After winning the NFC but falling short to Indianapolis on Super Sunday last season, the Midway Monsters are limping along to the tune of a 4-5 record and haven't put together back-to-back wins all year long. Despite entering 2007 as the overwhelming favorites to win a third straight NFC North title, very little has gone right for head coach Lovie Smith's crew as his club is currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Last year, the Seahawks were the first team to come out on the losing end of the Super Bowl that still made the playoffs the following season since the 2000 Rams, so Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck is quite familiar with the pressure Chicago is facing right now.

"It was tough," Hasselbeck said Wednesday via conference call at Halas Hall, "I gotta be honest, it was tough. It was a long year, and it takes a toll on your body. It just really does. I think people know about you a little bit more. They know your personnel a lot better. I can't put my finger on it, but it is different. I can remember at the end of that Super Bowl run just feeling physically and mentally exhausted, and then it just felt like the season was on us quick. I don't know if that's what they're feeling or what's going on. I guess every team's different, but there is something to it. And we were very banged up last year. I can't really explain it, but I can definitely sympathize with what their offseason probably was like, what their training camp was like, and the letdown from losing a game like that."

QB Matt Hasselbeck
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Most head coaches keep their weekly game plan under lock and key with Fort Knox-like security, but Seattle's Mike Holmgren told the whole world that he wanted to throw the ball more often before Monday's matchup with San Francisco. Hasselbeck was somewhat caught off guard with that kind of full disclosure, yet that didn't stop him from posting a 93.5 passer rating in a 24-0 pasting of the 49ers.

"I personally didn't believe him at first," he said, "I don't know. I didn't know what to think because he told the media that. He didn't tell us that until like two or three days later. I wasn't sure what to think, and then we had really bad weather that we were supposed to have for the game. I think they had like 90-mile-an-hour winds going into the game, and that's when he went up to us and said, 'Hey, I'm gonna throw the ball more. I'm gonna open it up. I'm gonna take some shots. I want to get real aggressive on offense.'"

According to Hasselbeck, not even Mother Nature being in a bad mood could deter Holmgren's new ultra-aggressive approach.

"I think I might have even said ,'Well, what about the weather?' And he said, 'What about it?' So he didn't care. He was very serious."

Injury Report
For the Bears, QB Brian Griese (shoulder), DT Tommie Harris (knee), LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (foot), OT Fred Miller (ankle), CB Nathan Vasher (groin), and DT Darwin Walker (knee) all missed practice Wednesday. S Brandon McGowan was only able to participate on a limited basis.

News & Notes
The Bears' head chef, Dave Majercik, had a memo delivered to the players' lockers stressing the importance of getting carbohydrates into their breakfast diets at this point of the season. Majercik recommended oatmeal, French toast, and whole grain cereals like Cheerios. They were urged to "just say no" to eggs and bacon.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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