Devin Hester changed his workout routine before last season and was pleased with the results. After not scoring on a kick-or punt return during the 2008 and '09 seasons, Hester returned three punts for touchdowns last season, breaking the NFL record for career kick return touchdowns with a 64-yard punt return against the Minnesota Vikings.
While this offseason has been strange for everyone because of the league-imposed lockout, Hester is following the same regimen that he believes resulted in much of his success in 2010, which means he's spending less time lifting weights and more time training on a track to make sure his legs are in condition to excel as both a returner and a receiver.
That's especially important in an offense designed by coordinator Mike Martz that requires receivers to have explosive speed as well as endurance.
"It's been more running still, more focus on the lower body, just keeping my legs strong and staying in shape," Hester said Thursday after the first day of his two-day kids camp at Lincoln Way Central High School in New Lenox. "That's the nature of our offense. The biggest thing is to come back in shape. That's what me and the guys have been trying to do."
Although Hester has been working out with quarterback Jay Cutler and other offensive skill position players three times a week for much of the offeason, he said the mental and physical reps aren't the same as they would be under the watchful eyes of coaches if organized team activities and minicamps had not been cancelled as a result of the lockout.
He also said Cutler is showing no ill effects of suffering a Grade II MCL tear in a NFC Championship Game loss to the Packers.
"He looks good," Hester said of Cutler. "It's the same Jay."
The Bears offense must continue to evolve if the team is going to contend for a second straight NFC North title this year, let alone compete with the defending Super Bowl champion Packers.
Martz's unit finished 30th in yards and 21st in points scored last season and were anemic against Green Bay in the regular-season finale and in the title game loss, failing to score a touchdowns in six quarters when Cutler was in the game.
"Their offense struggled with us, too," Hester said. "They only put up [24 offensive] points against us. It's a two-way situation. When you have a great defense like they do and like we do it comes down to two or three big plays in a game that determines the outcome."
When the lockout ends and training camp begins, Hester is confident the offense will benefit from experience gained under Martz last season.
"The biggest thing is we're now a year into the system," he said. "We did actually start clicking toward midseason and throughout so that was good. Now the goal is to finish where we started and really pick it up and be more advanced with it."