Under Lovie Smith, the Bears refused to give up on their experiment to turn record-breaking kick returner Devin Hester into a No. 1 wide receiver. Even numbers that clearly indicated Hester's production as a kick returner waned as his emphasis on offense increased refused to sway them.
It didn't take Marc Trestman and his staff long to decide otherwise. Trestman confirmed Tuesday that Hester will exclusively be a kick returner this season until further notice.
''The plan going in -- and I'll make it clear because I've been asked that a number of times -- Devin is going to focus on being our returner,'' Trestman said. ''He's got to be the returner for him to be there. And once that's locked in to place, which we expect that it will, then we'll see where it goes from there.
''We made a collective decision organizationally. I talked to the guys who have been here. Phil and I had a long conversation about it as well and just talking to Devin, let him get back to doing what he does best first. And once that's all in place we'll see if we need to, or if we're in a position to incorporate him in doing more things.''
Hester has had success in both positions, though he never has developed into the No. 1 wide receiver after holding out in training camp in 2008 to be paid like one. He had seven kick return touchdowns as a rookie in 2006 when he did not play wide receiver. He had six more kick return touchdowns in 2007 when he had 20 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns.
Hester went two seasons without a kick return touchdown when his wide receiver role increased in 2008 and 2009, He had his best season in the dual role was in 2010, when he averaged 17.1 yards per punt return (with three touchdowns) and led the NFL with 35.6 yards per kickoff return (with no touchdowns but returns of 79, 68, 61, 46 and 40 yards) and caught 40 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns.
But even that season, most of his best return games seem to come at the expense of his receiver role (in his five biggest return games, he had 11 catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns). The issue came to a head last season, when Hester slumped in both areas. He averaged 8.3 yards on punt returns and 25.9 on kickoff returns (without a touchdown) and caught 23 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown.