The Vikings aren't the only team Devin Hester has terrorized. Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has bad memories of the Chicago return man from Priefer's days with the Chiefs.
Neither the Vikings, nor their new special teams coordinator has good memories of facing Bears returner Devin Hester
And with both teams' offenses struggling overall heading into Sunday night's game, it's Hester who could be a difference-maker in this NFC North series once again.
Of Hester's NFL-record 11 punt returns for touchdowns, three came against Vikings punter Chris Kluwe
. There was a 45-yarder in 2006, an 89-yarder in 2007 and last year's 64-yarder.
As for special teams coach Mike Priefer, he said, "I do [remember] and I don't want to talk about it. ... It was not a good day for me. That was a nightmare for about three months."
It was 2007 and Priefer was special teams coach with the Chiefs. The Bears won 20-10 at Soldier Field as Hester returned punts 73 yards for a touchdown, 31 yards to set up a field goal and 24 yards to gain valuable field position late in the game. He also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was nullified by penalty.
Hester goes into the game averaging 23.4 yards on 12 kickoff returns and 20.2 yards with one touchdown on five punt returns. The Vikings, who hope to control the game with running back Adrian Peterson
, sound defense and field position, are allowing 21.4 yards per kickoff return and 12.4 yards per punt return.
"I don't want to sit here and let Chicago know what we're going to do, but I will let you know that we're going to change our game plan a little bit from what we've been doing," said Priefer, "We have to do that, he's that good. I don't think I can stand up here and tell you we're going to go status quo against Devin Hester. That's not going to happen."
WR Percy Harvin missed Thursday's practice because of a rib injury. Coach Leslie Frazier said it was a precautionary move to give Harvin more rest before Sunday's game.
CB Antoine Winfield missed another practice because of a neck strain and has not been on the field since hurting the neck against the Chiefs on Oct. 2. Frazier said all tests done on the neck are positive, but the team is waiting until Winfield feels comfortable returning to practice. If Winfield doesn't participate in Friday's practice, he'd likely miss his second consecutive game.
CB Chris Cook would get his second straight start at left corner if Winfield isn't able to play. Cook's confidence has increased dramatically the past month. A second-round pick a year ago, Cook is as healthy as he's been since before he injured a knee in last year's preseason. He went on to have an injury to the other knee in what was a lost season in 2010. A big corner with cover skills, he's also becoming a better tackler.
CB Asher Allen would also see increased reps if Winfield isn't able to play. Allen would play in the slot in the nickel. He also has grown in terms of confidence. A turf toe injury in the first preseason game hobbled him for nearly seven weeks, but he's finally healthy and coming off a game in which he had an interception and six solo tackles, including an impressive stop on fourth-and-1.
DE Jared Allen is off to the fastest start of his eight-year career. He's never had this many sacks (8.5) after five games. The total also leads the NFL and matches the five-game total that Michael Strahan had when he set the NFL season record of 22.5 in 2004.
For the Bears, G/C Chris Spencer practiced with the ones at right guard Thursday and if he doesn't suffer any setbacks could start at right guard Sunday, enabling Lance Louis to move over to right tackle.
OG Lance Louis could be moved out to right tackle this week for Frank Omiyale, who has been benched in back-to-back games for poor play.
WR Earl Bennett (chest) practiced on a limited basis Thursday but will not play this week.
FS Brandon Meriweather did not practice with the first team on Thursday, and he is expected to be replaced by rookie Chris Conte vs. the Vikings.
SS Chris Harris did not practice with the first team Thursday and is expected to be replaced by Major Wright Sunday night.
CB Charles Tillman (hip) did not practice Thursday but is expected to start Sunday night.
DE Julius Peppers (knee) did not practice Thursday but is expected to play this week.