A year after the Bears parted ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher, the team announced its decision on Thursday to release return specialist Devin Hester.
Hester’s decorated eight-year career includes some of the most memorable moments in Bears’ history. The franchise, however, deemed Hester expendable, which caught Urlacher off guard.
“I was really surprised to hear the news,” Urlacher told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “You think of Devin returning all those punts and kicks as a Bear. He’s going to break the record on another team, probably. It’s crazy to think he won’t be in a Bears uniform doing that. It’s frustrating as an ex-Bear and a player to see that happen.”
Although Hester will turn 32 next season, he’s coming off a year in which he ran for a career-high 1,442 kickoff return yards. Hester continues to be a productive player, but Chicago never wanted to make him an offer.
“Look at what the Steelers have done the last couple days signing Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, some older guys to a couple more years just so they can retire as Steelers,” Urlacher said. “The Bears could do that with Devin. He should retire a Bear. He set all those records in a Bears uniform, and his No. 23 should be retired one day in Chicago.
“It’s just the loyalty factor. It’s just not there. He should be a guy that retires as a Bear.”
Urlacher, who now analyzes the NFL for FOX Sports 1’s weekly show "FOX Football Daily," also noted that a reunion between Hester and Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith would seem to be appropriate.
“That’d be a great move for him,” Urlacher said. “He had great success from when Lovie was with Chicago. All those returns were when he was his head coach. Anyone leaving Chicago and joining Lovie is a great move. He’s a great head coach, and guys know what it’s like playing for him. He has been successful in the league, and he’ll be successful down there, as well.