Micheal Spurlock laughs when the situation is brought up: He is in fact part of a new era in Chicago Bears kick returning, fairly or unfairly being tasked with taking over for a legend in Devin Hester.
“He made the return spot pretty much famous,” Spurlock said. “I’ve been a fan of Devin’s for a long time. Devin was always going to be Devin, and you can’t replace him. I can’t be him. He’s his own man; I’m my own man. When you think of Chicago Bears, you think of Devin Hester.
“You want to get a touchdown every play, and Devin could do that. But at the end of the day, you really are looking for positive yards and then every now and then, you hit a home run.”
Spurlock came into the NFL the same year — 2006 — as Hester. He was an undrafted free agent who stuck with the Arizona Cardinals; Hester was a second-round draft pick of the Bears. The Bears are Spurlock’s ninth NFL team, besides a one-year stint with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL; Hester is carrying on his career with the Atlanta Falcons after eight years as a Bear.
The Bears’ return game is still in a molten state but Spurlock is being given the chance to lock down the job. He has the credentials. He has returned 107 kickoffs an average of 24.2 yards, three for touchdowns; he brought back 81 punts an average of 9.6 yard, two of those for touchdowns.
But he also is 31, entering his eighth NFL season. He is not the same speedster who came out of Mississippi as a combination quarterback/running back, backing up Eli Manning, any more than Hester is still the uncatchable blur he as coming out of Miami.
Spurlock is a different returner now than he once was.
“Before, it was just more running, running fast,” Spurlock said. “Now you’re understanding where your blocks are, who could be [unblocked]. Now that we’re getting older, we’re more students of the game, instead of just standing back there, catching the ball and just running to an open hole.
“You’re not just running aimlessly, which is what young guys do. Then it was just, ‘run fast!’ and that was good enough. Now, everybody is fast and they’re doing their jobs and you have to know how to set guys up.
“That’s what Devin did so well. He was fast but he was able to set guys up.”