For the better part of a eight years, the Bears were set-it-and-forget-it with kickoff and punt returns, with Devin Hester and Danieal Manning not only the best punt and kickoff returners on the roster, but also in a large segment of the NFL.
Things have changed. After the entire offseason and now six days before the start of the regular season, the handling of punts and kickoffs is still playing out. This could be considered an area of concern.
Veteran Michael Spurlock is the current front-runner at punt returner, but brought none of his five returns back longer than seven yards. Santonio Holmes’ one return came in the Cleveland game for 30 yards. He was a successful kickoff and punt returner early in his career, but Holmes last returned a kickoff in 2006 and before last Thursday, his last punt return was in 2010.
“We've got Spurlock back there, we've got Santonio back there, and Spurlock's the guy we're going to start with,” coach Marc Trestman confirmed. “We brought in Rashad Ross, he's on the practice squad, he's got return ability as well. We're going to take a good look at Michael and get Santonio in there and work from that standpoint in the punt-return side.”
Not much more is clear on kickoff returns, where undrafted rookie Senorise Perry flashed in preseason. Perry had the longest return (27 yards) of any player still on the roster.
“In special teams in the punt return game, with the help of the front 10 guys working their tails off like they did for Devin back in the day, I can definitely contribute in that aspect,” Holmes said. “No expectations, but when the number is called, I’ll be ready to roll.”