Lovie reunion? Hester says Bucs 'possible'
New Bucs coach Lovie Smith has plenty of former players available in free agency, like top returner Devin Hester, who said Wednesday on the NFL Network that he'd like the idea of playing for Smith again in Tampa.
"It's possible," Hester said on the "Total Access" show, which can be seen here. "I know Chicago wants to go a different route with me. ... Tampa, I look at Lovie as my No. 1 coach right now. He's the one that took a chance on me coming out of the draft. He has all my respect. If he's a guy that's going to shoot at me and want me to come play with him again, my arms are open."
Hester, 31, is from Riviera Beach and played at Miami in college, and he has the NFL records for most career punt returns for touchdowns (13) and total kicks returned for touchdowns (18). He didn't play receiver last year but could give the Bucs depth at that position, though he has only two touchdown catches in the last three seasons.
The Bucs could see Hester as an upgrade to Eric Page, who was the team's primary returner on kicks and punts last year. The Bucs were in the top half of the league in return average, but Hester had better averages than Page on kickoffs (27.6 yards to 24.9) and punts (14.2 to 10.9). The Bucs' longest return last year was 52 yards, while Hester went for 80 on a kickoff and 81 on punts.
While Hester's quote makes it clear he'd be interested in playing for the Bucs, it's unknown if the opposite is true, if the Bucs see a need to upgrade on returns or how they value Hester compared to other free-agent options. Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network reiterated Thursday that a deal for the Bucs and Hester is "unlikely."