PHOENIX -- The Chicago Bears' new regime has been signaling for a while that it considers Devin Hester to be primarily a returner at this stage in his career. On Wednesday, coach Marc Trestman revealed how serious the team is about narrowing Hester's duties.
Speaking at the NFL owners meeting, Trestman said that Hester will spend most of his time during the Bears' offseason program with special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. Asked if Hester will even practice with receivers during organized team activities (OTAs), Trestman said: "I don't know yet. We're going to talk about that next week. Most of the time he will be with Joe, meeting with Joe and spending time with Joe."
Trestman also reiterated general manager Phil Emery's expectation that Hester will "compete" for the returner's job, although I think we all know that Hester's skills would have to decline significantly for him not to be the best returner on the Bears' roster.
I tossed Trestman's sentiments onto Twitter a few minutes ago and your collective and overwhelming response was this: "It's about time." Real or imagined, many of us have wondered if the Bears got too greedy after Hester revealed his elite open-field running skills as a returner.
It was worth finding out if he could extend it into a full-time receiving role, but his 49 receptions and two touchdowns since the start of the 2011 season isn't enough production to merit a splitting of duties -- and presumably a watered-down impact. That has been especially clear since the team traded for Brandon Marshall and drafted Alshon Jeffery last year; Trestman spoke Wednesday as if he expected that pair to be his primary starters in 2013.
Hester didn't have a touchdown return last season but had three as recently as 2011. He will turn 31 in November, which is middle age for a receiver but probably not a multi-purpose threat. The Bears had reached the point in his career when it was time to make a choice, and it makes perfect sense to pick the part of his skill set that is Hall of Fame worthy.
Although he hasn't made a direct public comment about the situation that I'm aware of, it's fair to assume Hester is on board. As we noted earlier month, a post on Hester's Instagram account said he was "a bear 4 life."
More to come from the meetings in a bit.