Jan/30/13 08:26 AM Filed in: Devin Hester
Former Chicago Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake always took time to stick up for his players. As he prepares to leave town, Drake continues to stand behind Devin Hester as a receiver.
Hester ended the season with an emotional rant during which he indicated he might consider retirement. The most dangerous return man in league history was upset with his offensive role all season and then broken up about the team’s decision to fire head coach Lovie Smith.
"Devin and I talked a little bit because I always want him to make the decisions that are best for him," Drake, who is headed to the Arizona Cardinals to fill the same position, said in a phone interview Monday. "I do understand that he was talking emotionally. But I think Devin’s going to sit back and reassess where he’s at. I think he has a lot left in him.
"He has to decide if he wants to continue to play, whether it’s here in Chicago or somewhere else."
Hester, a three-time Pro Bowler who established his reputation with 12 kick return touchdowns and five punt return touchdowns, has experienced a steady decline as a receiver. He caught a career-high 57 passes for 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009. His reception total dipped to 40 the next season, then to 26 in ’11 on down to 23 this past season while playing alongside Brandon Marshall (118 receptions).
"The thing about Devin is, the stars need to align right," Drake said. "What I mean by that is, things have to be in order for him to excel. That’s just how he’s made. If things are right, then he’ll excel. If not, then he may struggle here and there."
Drake doesn’t believe learning the receiver position while continuing to be the team’s top kick returner complicated matters for Hester.
"That wasn’t a lot for him to shoulder," Drake said. "Devin just needs to be involved. When you have a guy of his caliber, you’ve got to get him involved. Guys like him feed off success. When he wasn’t involved, then he was frustrated. It’s hard to play this game frustrated. That’s the bottom line."
It was obvious that Hester wasn’t always on the same page with quarterback Jay Cutler. Hester even felt he was getting overlooked despite being open, at times, this past season. And Cutler certainly felt he delivered some catchable balls that Hester dropped.
If the 30-year-old Hester remains in Chicago – he has another year left on his contract and is due a base salary of $1.86 million – he’ll obviously need to get on the same page with Cutler in 2013.
"They need to sit down and get to know each other better, which I don’t know if that will ever happen," Drake said. "I think it’s both of them just being able to understand each other.
"Jay is a tough, tough-minded guy. He looks at things a lot differently. Devin is more of a compassionate-type of guy. They’re total opposites. At times, that probably made things a little bit tougher. But could they co-exist? Sure, if they both work at it. But it takes both of them to do it."