Look for Packers to shy away from Hester

Coaches, players have utmost respect for the Bears return specialist

Green Bay's special teams have improved throughout the course of this season, but that doesn't mean the Packers are ready to pull a Mike Shanahan and kick the ball straight to Chicago's special teams ace Devin Hester.

In fact, despite allowing the Bears to start four drives at the 35 yard line on average in Green Bay's 27-20 loss on Oct. 7, they probably will sacrifice field position in exchange for giving Hester a shot at a game-changing play.

"Listen, the primary purpose in trying to handle him (Hester) is to keep him from scoring," said Packers special teams coordinator Mike Stock. "That's the bottom line. That's what our effort is all about – to try to keep him from scoring, whether we're punting the ball, or kicking off trying to cover him. It's a very difficult situation. He's very good and their unit is very good. They've got a great core unit of special teams players. They have great confidence in him and he has great confidence in them. They've been effective together now for a year, almost two years in a row."

Hester was a non-factor in the first meeting this season between the two teams. He wasn't allowed to return any kickoffs, though, he averaged 10.0 yards on four punt returns, including a 20-yard return. The Packers were only willing to punt to him by restricting his space to operate. Look for the Packers to take the same approach Sunday in the 175th meeting between the two storied rivalries.

"He's clearly a weapon. He can score from anywhere on the field," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "If you have an opportunity to take that away, it's no different than game-planning against a quarterback or big-time receiver. The thought process (in the first matchup) was good."

Denver, on Nov. 25, appeared to be on its way to beating the Bears at Solider Field, but deciced to kick the ball to Hester, who responded by returning one kickoff and one punt for touchdowns. Hester averaged 30.2 yards on five kickoff returns and had a whopping 16.2 averge on five punt returns in Chicago's 37-34 overtime victory.

McCarthy wasn't thrilled that the Bears had 209 more yards for a starting point than his team. Yet, the decision to have kicker Mason Crosby pooch kick off a tee worked in Green Bay's favor because the Bears' offense only scored three points after the four kickoffs.

Nevertheless, the Packers' coverage units have been relentless of late, and those contributors welcome the challenge of going after Hester.

"He's a great athlete. He was in college," said defensive end and special teams contributor Jason Hunter. "He has all the skills in the world to continue to be a great player. We have to keep our eye on him."

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