Devin Hester seeks full recovery before signing

Devin Hester intends to play one more NFL season, but the most productive return man in league history wants to be fully healthy first.

Hester, who was released by the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday, said he feels about 75 to 80 percent healthy while recovering from January surgery to repair a broken sesamoid bone in his right big toe. Hester, 33, told ESPN that seven teams reached out immediately after his release, but he won't sign until his toe is back to normal.

"Teams already have tried to sign me, but I'm not ready to go," Hester said. "We told teams that I'm not ready to practice, still rehabbing."

The initial timeline for recovery was up to six months. Foot surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson performed the procedure in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If Hester is unable to fully recover over the next two months, the four-time Pro Bowler plans to step away from the game.

"If I'm not healthy enough to play by October, I'm going to retire," Hester said, adding there's "no question" he wants to ultimately retire as a Chicago Bear. He played for the Bears from 2006 to 2013.

Hester would not disclose the seven teams that reached out, but he has close ties to Arizona Cardinals wide receivers coach Darryl Drake and Kansas City Chiefs special-teams coordinator Dave Toub, among others.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Hester's release was a football decision and not related to the injury. Hester was due to make $3 million this season.

Hester has expressed no ill feelings toward the Falcons. He said he is focused on getting his toe healthy and getting back on the field.

"Some of the ligaments are still not healed up all the way," he said. "It's getting better now. [Running] straight ahead, I'm good. It's just when I start going lateral, my toe flares up. It's going to take time with that. I don't know if it's going to be a two-week process or three or maybe four. And I told [the Falcons] that. And I told them I wasn't signing the paper saying I was ready to play.

"It's a business. I understand that. The healing process was supposed to be four to six months. It's been longer than what we expected."

Hester holds NFL career records with 20 return touchdowns and 14 punt return scores.

"If it's God's will, I'll come back," Hester said. "If not, I can't be upset. I feel like I had a great career."

Former Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, who coached Hester in Chicago, said Hester should be in the Hall of Fame one day.

"When you are the best to ever play that position in the NFL, you should end up in the Hall of Fame," Smith said. "He changed the way the game was played."