LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub acknowledged on Thursday that the team is looking for better results from the punt return unit anchored by three-time Pro Bowl return man Devin Hester.
It looked as if Hester might have a shot at a lengthy return in the fourth quarter of Monday night's win over the Lions when a short 35-yard punt by Nick Harris landed at the Lions' 47-yard line. But Hester called for a fair catch on the play, even though it appeared he had room to run if he would have fielded the punt. Earlier in the game Hester let a punt drop instead of calling for a fair catch that resulted in a 58-yard kick by Harris that put the ball on the Bears' 19.
"He probably made some decisions in that game he would probably take back," Toub said. "He might have returned that last one possibly, but that's just the way it is. Most of the time he's going to make the correct decision. We just want him to get that aggressiveness back and we think we'll get sooner or later.
"That's probably the hardest position to play that punt returner. You have to make a lot of decisions. You have to check the coverage. Is it high hang time or is it a line drive? You have to make those decisions and think fast on your feet. Sometimes you make the right decisions, sometimes you don't. It depends where you are on the field. If you're backed up and the ball is real deep and it's high hang-time you let it go. If it's a short kick you want to take it and try to steal one especially if there's no coverage. So we're going to continue to work and eventually it will come."
Hester is averaging 7.6 yards per punt return on 12 attempts with a long return of 23 yards over the first six games this season. Hester's career punt return average is 12.9 yards, but last season he averaged 16.2 yards per return and brought back two for touchdowns.
Hester's heavy workload on offense, where he played 59 snaps at wide receiver, prompted Toub to mix in reserve return men Eric Weems and Earl Bennett during the Lions game. Weems is a former Pro Bowler who handled return duties for the Atlanta Falcons the past three seasons, and Bennett once returned a punt 49-yards for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.
"Like in this last game he was playing a lot on offense so we have two other good returners in Eric Weems and Earl (Bennett)," Toub said. "We just felt like we had a chance to get those guys a couple returns and we did it."
Toub disagreed that Hester's increased workload on offense is affecting his performance on special teams.
"With Devin, it's just about touches," Toub said. "Anytime he gets a chance to touch the ball that's important to him. So he doesn't take one thing, if you're asking me if one thing is more important than the other, no. Not with him. One thing about Devin I've learned over the years with Devin is that if he gets off to a good start he's pretty much dangerous the whole game. That's one thing we are trying to get going with him is to get him off to a fast start."