TAMPA — New Bucs coach Lovie Smith has plenty of former players available in free agency, including top returner Devin Hester, who said Wednesday that he would like the idea of playing for Smith again in Tampa.
"It's possible," Hester said on the on the NFL Network's Total Access show. "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."
The Bears announced Thursday that they will not attempt to re-sign Hester, confirming what he told the NFL Network. Instead of returning to Chicago, he'll hit the market as a free agent.
Hester, 31, is from Riviera Beach and played at Miami in college. He holds the NFL record for career punt returns for touchdowns (13) and shares the record for career returns for touchdowns (19) with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.
Hester didn't play receiver last season but did extensively when Smith was coach in Chicago and could give the Bucs depth at that position, though he has only two touchdown catches in the past 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 season. 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 season was 52 yards, while Hester went for 80 on a kickoff and had an 81 yard punt return for a TD.
In related news, the Bears signed former Bucs defensive end Trevor Scott to a one-year contract. Scott played four games for the Bucs last season.
PETERSON WOOING VICK: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson issued a Twitter message on Wednesday stating that quarterback Michael Vick "would (instantly) make the Vikings a playoff team!"
"I think he has his opinions," new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Peterson. "I like Adrian a lot from the little I've talked to him. I know he's a great running back. I don't know anything else."
Zimmer said Thursday that he wants QB Matt Cassel to return next season. Cassel opted out of his contract to explore free agency.
Vick and the Eagles haven't ruled out the quarterback returning to Philadelphia, the Associated Press reported. Vick can become a free agent next week, and he has made it clear he'll look for an opportunity to be a starter. If Vick doesn't find the right fit elsewhere, he would consider staying in Philadelphia, according to reports. Nick Foles replaced Vick last season, leading the Eagles to an NFC East title.
BRONCOS: Cornerback Champ Bailey was released after 10 seasons with the team. The 12-time All-Pro pick was scheduled to make around $10 million next season. Bailey, 35, has 52 career interceptions, the most among active cornerbacks.
COLTS: Former Browns linebacker and Seminole High standout D'Qwell Jackson was signed. Terms of the deal were not immediately available. A second-round draft pick in 2006 out of Maryland, the 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker has started 48 consecutive games in his career.
SHARPER admission: Former safety Darren Sharper admitted to witnesses that he and another man had sex with two women in New Orleans without their permission in September, according to a police report obtained by USA Today. Sharper, 38, is in a Los Angeles jail awaiting extradition to New Orleans to face aggravated rape charges.
Hernandez: A Massachusetts sheriff is seeking a criminal complaint against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after a recent jail scuffle with another inmate. The paperwork has been filed in district court, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told Boston's WHDH-TV. Hodgson said last week neither inmate required medical attention after the Feb. 25 fight in the Bristol House of Correction. Hernandez is held there after pleading not guilty to murder in the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd, a Boston man dating Hernandez's fiancee's sister.