By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) — Devin Hester’s 2006 trip to St. Louis was one his best games as pro and one of his worst.
That was his rookie season when he was a reserve cornerback for the Bears. Late in the game, with the Bears holding a 35-13 lead, Hester found himself lined up against Pro Bowl wide receiver Torry Holt. The Rams were at the Bears’ 6-yard line, so using goal-line technique, he jumped the slant.
Holt went right by him and easily caught the touchdown pass from Marc Bulger.
“So this is what being an NFL cornerback is like,” Hester said Friday, reflecting on the game nearly seven years later. “Thankfully, I ran the kickoff back to get even.”
Indeed he did.
Even though Hester had returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, the Rams kicked to him again. That, also, was a big mistake.
Hester took it back 96 yards for a touchdown, essentially negating the score he had just allowed to Holt. The return also set an NFL record, as it was Hester’s sixth touchdown return of the season.
The reason that story came up Friday was because Hester has been working out with the cornerbacks in practice this week.
But don’t expect him to make a return to the position this weekend when the Bears head back to the building where Hester played cornerback in the NFL for the first time. The return specialist was moved to wide receiver in his second season and hasn’t played on defense since.
Hester admitted Friday he could play cornerback in an emergency (the Bears are currently without Charles Tillman, and nickelback Isaiah Frey will play with a cast on his right hand), but it’s still not likely to happen.
“Whenever I come over and play around with those guys, it gives them a little bit more energy and a little bit more excitement to go out and work hard … when they see me, it sparks the group up a little,” Hester said.
Now that he’s just a returner, Hester usually spends most of practice on the sideline, so jumping into the cornerback drills allows him to run around a bit.
“You got to make practice fun. You can’t go through the same routine every day, it kind of gets boring,” he said.
The Bears are obviously not revealing whether or not Hester has worked at cornerback in team drills, although that would seem unlikely because most of the reps in practice go to the starters. It’s also worth mentioning that he was still wearing a white practice jersey with the rest of the specialists Friday, while the defense was wearing blue.
And Hester isn’t trying to fool anybody with his cornerback skills. Asked if he could cover Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin Sunday, he said: “Just put a safety over the top and I’ll shut anybody down. I need a safety. I’m a Cover-2 man.”
Just remember — and Hester, channeling his inner Allen Iverson, said this himself: “We’re talking about practice.”
– Defensive tackles Stephen Paea (turf toe) and Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game. Safety Craig Steltz (concussion) is questionable and was limited in practice Friday. Defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring), nickelback Isaiah Frey (fractured hand) and long snapper Patrick Mannelly (calf) are all probable.
– Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan was listed as doubtful with an eye injury.
– The Bears only have 52 players on their current roster, but head coach Marc Trestman said Friday that he did not have any moves to announce. It’s possible cornerback C.J. Wilson or defensive end Tracy Robertson get moved up from the practice squad to help the depth at those positions.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.