Devin Hester runs the opening kickoff back as the Packers' Jarrett Bush and Davon House pursue him. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune /December 29, 2013)
10:51 p.m. CST, March 5, 2014
After eight highlight-packed seasons as a Bear, Devin Hester's career appears destined to finish elsewhere.
Hester, who shares the NFL record of 19 career return touchdowns with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, will hit free agency Tuesday afternoon. And during an interview Wednesday on the NFL Network he confirmed what long has been suspected: the Bears will turn the page with no talks of bringing him back.
"From my knowledge, I know that Chicago wants to go a different route with me," Hester said. "All I can say is thanks to the fans (for) the support. Always been great to me, always been loyal. I couldn't want to play for a better city than those guys."
Hester averaged 27.6 yards per kickoff return and 14.2 yards per punt return last season, tying Sanders' touchdown record with an 81-yard punt return against the Redskins in October.
Hester posted this to his Facebook page on Wednesday night: "To all my Chicago people...I can't thank you all enough for my time in Chicago. I've always said I wanted to retire a Chicago Bear but sometimes things don't work out the way we would like. Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart and if I am fortunate enough to break the return record, we will have all broken it together...no matter where I am. Thank you again and God Bless."
Hester said he hopes to retire officially as a Bear when his career ends and addressed the possibility of a reunion in Tampa Bay with new Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, his head coach for his first seven NFL seasons.
"I look at Lovie as my number one coach right now," Hester said. "Because he's the one that took a chance on me coming out of the draft. He has all of my respect so if he's a guy who is going to shoot at me and want me to come play with him again, my arms are open."