Monday, Dec. 20, 2010
8:01 PM Updated 12:57 AM
By John Mullin
MINNEAPOLIS Devin Hester is, with apologies to Deion Sanders, his mentor, the greatest kick returner in NFL history. You could look it up.
But it was difficult for him to acknowledge the honor.
Hester stepped to the visiting teams podium underneath TCF Bank Stadium after the game in which had broken Brian Mitchells record with a record 14th return touchdown. But his first thought was not about himself, and tears welled up in his eyes and he had to stop twice to compose himself.
I want to give all credit to all those guys blocking for me, Hester said. Without them I wouldnt be up here today. I hate sitting up here taking all the glory. All the glory goes to them.
Actually, all the luxury watches will go to them as well. Hester said before the season that he was going to buy each member of his unit a watch to commemorate the occasion and what they had accomplished together.
Were the best punt-return team ever to do this, Hester said, with a mix of both pride and amazement as it sank in. And theres going to be a lot more than that, I can tell you that.
Hester, who began the third quarter with a 79-yard return to the Minnesota 6, burst through a cluster of Minnesota Vikings with a third-quarter punt and carried it 64 yards into the Minnesota end zone and into the NFL record books as the 14th return touchdown of his career.
Coach Lovie Smith has seen the building of the return groups since Hester arrived in the 2006 draft and you want to get on that unit when you have a returner like Devin, Smith said.
For special teams coordinator Dave Toub, It says a lot, it really says a lot, he said, shaking his head. It hasnt really even sunk in.
Favreing it up
Brett Favre presented one surprise for the Bears Monday when he tested his injured shoulder by throwing two hours before game time and judged himself fit to start after being declared out two days ago.
That was a surprise, said Lovie Smith, whod overseen the scheming by his defense for rookie Joe Webb. They said he was out and I assumed he was out.
As far as out apparently not meaning out, You learn something every day, Smith said.
But the Minnesota Vikings took arguably a bigger hit in the other direction when running back Adrian Peterson, who missed practice two days and was limited on a third last week, was ruled out with nagging ankle and knee problems.
And All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson, out the past two games with a broken thumb, is now gone for the season after being placed on injured reserve. Chris DeGeare started in place of Hutchinson while 2010 second-round pick Toby Gerhart took Petersons place.
The change to Favre represented a change on one level. The Bears under Lovie Smith, however, have been 8-3 against Favre teams and this is not the Brett Favre who was the scourge of the Bears of Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron.
But Peterson takes a huge part of the Minnesota offense out of play and could prove particularly costly on a night when snowy field conditions projected to place increased emphasis on the run game.
For their part the Bears were without strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa for the third time in the last four games as his comeback from minor knee surgery has not been sufficient for him to resume play. Nick Roach was again inserted into the starting lineup.
Also out for the Bears: offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams; tight end Desmond Clark; defensive tackle Marcus Harrison; defensive back Joshua Moore; and running back Kahlil Bell.
The Vikings were also without wide receiver Greg Lewis; defensive backs Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford; defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy; tackle Thomas Welch; and quarterback R. J. Archer.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said before Mondays game that talks for a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players association are not where we need to be and we are not as close as Id like the negotiations to be.
Goodell seemed to be sending something of a reminder to the NFLPA that there will need to be more give in order to get something done and avoid a football shutdown in 2011.
If everyone gives a little, everyone will get a lot, Goodell said. But not everyone will get everything they want but hopefully they will get what they need.
Goodell stopped by the collapsed Metrodome and called the destruction startling. He also sounded a positive theme for the Minnesota market as the NFL works with Vikings ownership and the citystate to get a stadium situation resolved for the team. Overtures have been made which could move the Vikings to Los Angeles but it seems like everyones working to find the right solution, Goodell said.
Brett Favre surfaced in two areas of the conversation: his switch from out to starting, and the ongoing investigation into his behavior involving a former member of the New York Jets organization while Favre played for the Jets.
Goodell said that the change in Favres status was against no rule and was in fact a medical decision and based on a medical report. A decision in the Jen Sterger case is not expected during this season, declared by Favre to be his last, making it strangely irrelevant.
Im not going to put a timetable on a decision, Goodell said. Hopefully by the end of the season.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.