Sports Bank flashback: Sarah Spain’s column on Devin Hester Holdout

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The following is a Sports Bank flashback piece from summer 2008. It’s written by former TSB contributor Sarah Spain. It’s very likely that Sarah Spain will soon leave ESPN 1000 for Fox Sports 1. In light of today’s events; and the fact that’s a VERY SLOW news day, I felt the need to bring this old post back to the top.

As you can see, it’s quite well written.

Last night on my way home from work I was listening to All Night With Jason Smith on ESPN 710. The topic was Devin Hester’s holdout and subsequent absence from the Chicago Bears training camp. Smith feels that Hester, primarily a punt and kick returner, is asking for too much because his role on the football field is equivalent to that of a late reliever in baseball. Fleshing out his analogy, Smith compared quarterbacks to starting pitchers—when a team loses, most of the blame falls upon the starting pitcher or the quarterback–and kickers to closers–when the game’s on the line, it’s in their hands (or feet, as the case may be). Smith claimed that Hester, like a late reliever, played an important role in–at the most–half of the games in which he played last year. While I agreed with a lot of Smith’s thoughts, his fatal flaw was in not watching enough Bears games.


Hester affected almost every single Chicago offensive possession last season. Teams that dared kick to #23 were immediately burned by another ridiculous highlight reel return from the Windy City Flyer. When he wasn’t taking it to the house, he was taking it three-quarters of the way there and giving the anemic Bears offense a decent shot at getting in the endzone. Most importantly, Hester’s influence was obvious when he didn’t even touch the ball. Every time the Bears started their drive near midfield, it was because of Devin Hester. Every pooch punt and squib kick that bounced out of bounds at the 45 yard line was the result of Hester’s inhuman ability to beat an entire special teams unit.  You cannot underestimate the importance of field position in football, and thus, you cannot underestimate the importance of a Devin Hester.

Looking beyond the league-changing stats Hester puts up as a returner, Bears fans see a real future for him at wide receiver. With an entire off-season to learn the offense and get more comfortable with his routes, Hester may surprise a lot of doubters who want to see him as just a special teams player. Everyone knows that Hester is the greatest returner in the history of the game, but at this point, no one–not even Lovie Smith–knows whether Hester will be a #1, #2 or #3 wide receiver by the season opener. His enormous potential is one reason Bears brass shouldn’t be short-sighted in their contract talks. Hester’s deal shouldn’t be based on the contracts of other special teams players or wide receivers. He’s ten times more valuable than any returner in the league and until he’s in camp working with the offense, there’s no way to tell how he’ll fare as a consistent receiver. Sad as it is to say, the Bears as a team have the worst skill players in all of football. Most football fans would describe the team’s quarterback(s), receivers and running backs as “strike year” standouts. Give Hester what he wants. Late reliever, special teamer–whatever you wanna call him–he may just be the most important player the Bears have got.

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  1. Whatever happened to the days of players HONORING the contracts that they-themselves had signed. Did they originally sign under the premise that they maybe wouldn’t play up to their potential? It’s ridiculous to think that….just as ridiculous as not honoring one’s commitments. What a bunch of bunk.

  2. This makes me sad. I had not yet heard word of this out in San Diego. He is the lone offensive star (I love Kreutz, but can’t really call him a “star”) —
    “Give za man hiz money…”

  3. you know, i met hester, he was a dick head then, and looks to be a dickhead now, he is greatest returner ever and a BLAST to watch, but if he has no class then screw em…. i think deon is getting to many bad thoughts in his head…
    if he would just show up and play like he does the bears organization would give him a reasonable deal (WHICH THEY ALREADY DID AND HE TURNED IT DOWN)…… i dont want hester to leave the bears but i dont want him ruining the team either…..

  4. While I’m pretty fast, rarely last, I do not think I could repeat Hester’s past. He reads the D and is light on his feet, watching him fly is one heck of a treat. So if he’s doing two jobs just pay him please, in that regard, I agree with the cheese. His contract is based on a burger that’s plain, one heck of a story: Good Job Sarah Spain. Mic dropped- SM

  5. Ya Ya Sox Sisterhood says:

    Good article Sarah. It would be better if it mentioned something about Soxman. ;)

    Maybe Soxman can return kick-offs. He’s said to be a fast runner and manages to dodge me at the cell.

  6. Bleeding Cheese says:

    I second the Soxman idea. Good thoughts Sarah. I firmly believe in people honoring their contracts BUT he was signed as a special teams kick returner and now is being asked to become an every down WR1? Its like asking Soxman to be a Superfan and then to coach first base at no additional pay. Give him the raise.

  7. Grinder Guy says:

    Soxman raps again! Awesome. I hope Hester does not become a head case.

  8. Jason Moe says:

    I ran back a 75 yard kick against Thorton my JR. Year. It was pretty damn cool…

    In my high school career I have ran three kicks back…I should check Sandburg records and see were I rank…I ran the forty in 4.6..Damn I was quick…Ask Dave K. he knew the skills!!!!

    Moeman Out!!! #42 signing off!!!

  9. Bears are going to need a big season out of Hester, that’s for sure. They don’t have many dynamic offensive players… the offense rests on Forte’s quick development, Hester and Booker’s return to the windy season. The defense should solid again but I think the part about Chicago that makes them dangerous is the two tight ends… Clark and Olsen…. those two are good … can Grossman or Orton git r done?

  10. Hamburglar says:

    Robble Robble

    Hester back.

    Worst holdout EVER!

    Robble Robble

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