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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bears hoping Bucs kick to Devin Hester

19

October

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler enjoys nothing more than watching the fallout from one of Devin Hester’s patented kick- or punt-return touchdowns, the kind of play that can break opponents’ backs.

“On our sideline, the biggest thing when special teams is out there is whether they’re going to kick it to him or not,” Cutler said on a conference call today. “Because, if they do, there’s a strong chance it could possibly get returned for a touchdown.

“Whenever (he scores), it’s so dramatic. It’s such a kill shot for the other team. It takes the life out of them. He’s come so far as a receiver and his ability to be able to do both is phenomenal.”

Hester struck again Sunday night when he weaved 98 yards for a kick-return touchdown against the Vikings. The feat extended his NFL record to 16 career touchdown returns, a mark he’s set in just 82 games. The closest active player on the list, Josh Cribbs, sits in fifth place with 10 touchdowns in 96 games.

The Bucs on Sunday could opt not to kick to Hester. Coach Raheem Morris suggested as much on Wednesday, saying they would consider directional kicking by punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen.

But Bears coach Lovie Smith said teams, somewhat surprisingly, have been kicking at Hester. That’s fine with Smith.

“In the time that Devin has been here, we’re seen it all,” Smith said. “Once a player gets hot and starts returning a lot, often the next approach is to kick it away from him. That’s been a common thing we’ve seen in games.

“But this year, teams have kicked the ball off to him quite a bit. He’s our kickoff returner and our punt returner, so he’s getting a few opportunities. Right now, teams are kicking it off and saying they’re just going to cover and we hope teams continue to do that.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 2:56pm]

    

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