Moon: Emotional Hester gives teammates their due

Moon: Emotional Hester gives teammates their due

Monday, Dec. 20, 2010
8:01 PM Updated 12:57 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

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.

Commishing
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.

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).