CHARLOTTE, N.C.--If Devin Hester has been pressing a little since signing his $40 million contract extension in July, he's not admitting it.
It's at least one explanation for the daredevil attempt to start the third quarter in Indianapolis when he tried to bring out a kick from seven yards deep in the end zone. For as much attention as that effort has received, keep in mind if he hadn't been brought down at the three by a defender he never saw, he might well have had a 107-yard touchdown. Don't look for the Bears to be putting the brakes on him.
"We won't,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "We expect him to make good decisions. Will you make the right decision every time? I've never seen anyone that does. But we're going to let Devin be himself. He does have a knack and we're expecting big plays from him this week like we will every week.''
The challenge today will be getting his hands on the ball in the end zone, period. Panthers kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd had four touchbacks on his six kickoffs last week at San Diego. The warm conditions today should be ideal for his big leg.
"That's what we're [expecting, Lloyd to try for touchbacks],'' Hester said. "He has a good strong leg and the majority of his kicks are going through the end zone. There's nothing you can do on that."
So, what's the rule right now for how deep a kick can be in the end zone for Hester to bring it out?
"I'm not going to give all of that information out," he said. "I'm not even sure what we're going to run yet. We're just going with the basic plan. We'll see if I get the ball in my hands."
Hester had only two balls thrown his way against the Colts when he was on the field for 21 snaps. It figures the Bears will look to loosen up the Panthers by trying to take a couple shots downfield. Bears radio analyst Tom Thayer made a good point appearing on the Score Friday morning with Sun-Times scribes Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley. Thayer said with the plan to keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands in Indianapolis, and a focus on the running game, the offense couldn't afford to throw away a play taking a low-percentage shot deep downfield. It was a point well made. Going deep might help the running game against the Panthers by scaring the defense out of some eight-man fronts. It can't hurt to put it on tape for Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, the upcoming opponents.
"We have that mentality every game where if the moment is right, we'll do it," Hester said. "If the game is going the right way, who knows? We've got to have big plays. The deep balls will come. You have to play your game and when the opportunity comes you have to take it."