Devin Hester backed off talk of retirement but believes a "fresh start" with another team might be best, and the record-setting return man said he is not interested in playing receiver if he is back with the Chicago Bears.
"I'm going to try to get two or three more years in," Hester told the Chicago Tribune. "I think I have that much left in me.
"At the same time, I think I do need a fresh start."
Hester, 30, was so frustrated with his season, he talked about retiring after Lovie Smith was fired on Dec. 31. That is no longer an option for Hester, but he doesn't want to go through another season on offense like the one he had in 2012, when he caught 23 passes for 242 yards.”
"To be honest with you, if I'm still here, I don't want to play offense," Hester told the Tribune. "I don't think my role [on offense] will fit. I can't truly say that with the new offense, but from past experience, I don't think it will fit."
Hester, who will make about $2.1 million in the final year of his contract next season, said he wouldn't rule out asking for a trade.
"It's a possibility. I'm loyal to my team," Hester said. "But the fans and my teammates have to understand where I'm coming from. I don't want to walk away from this game with another season going the way it ended this year. ... It might have to take a fresh start somewhere else."
Hester's 12 punt returns for touchdowns are an NFL record, and his next return for a score will tie him with Deion Sanders for the most combined return touchdowns in NFL history with 19. But he hasn't returned one for a score since Oct. 16, 2011, a span of 25 games.
After establishing himself as the game's premier return man in 2006, Hester added receiving duties in 2007. He posted a career-best 57 catches in 2009, but his totals have dropped in each of the past three seasons. He was targeted just 40 times in 2012, good for sixth on the Bears.
"Not only this year, but the last couple of years it has been like that," Hester told the Tribune. "It was really starting to show, why I was frustrated. I'm not making any excuses. I know some of the plays I should have made in terms of catching the ball. But I just wasn't feeling it. My mind wasn't there the majority of the time."
Former receivers coach Darryl Drake said before the 2012 season that if Hester didn't catch more than the 26 passes he caught in 2011, the coaching staff would have "failed him." Asked why Hester came up short, Drake struggled to find an explanation.
"I couldn't tell you," Drake told "Waddle & Silvy" on Tuesday on ESPN Chicago 1000. "Again, when you have a guy with that kind of talent, and he does have talent -- contrary to what a lot of people say, he does have talent -- he feeds off success, and any guy like him has to be involved.
"And I've heard we're going to have 'The Devin Hester Package,' I've heard that for I don't know how many years. And I'm part of it, but I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it come into fruition on Sundays, but I think a guy with his ability, the more you get it to him, the more you see, the better he is. When you don't get it to him, then frustration sets in, and you'll see it."
Former Bears special teams coach Dave Toub said Hester needs to start having fun again, and the production will follow.
"He still has a lot of talent," Toub said Jan. 16 on "Waddle & Silvy." "You see it in practice. It's more mental with him. He has to get his mind right, and once that thing starts clicking, he's going to be fine."