Packers ready for more Hester
Shawn Slocum thought he might finally get a reprieve from the Devin Hester experience once the volatile return man exited Chicago through free agency in March.
And then he showed up with the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers' Week 14 opponent.
So the Packers' special-teams coach is back to square one, once again scheming for his 17th encounter with perhaps the best to ever do it.
"When the schedule came out, I said, 'Oh, man, we've got to play him again,'" said Slocum, who's been on the Packers' coaching staff since Hester's rookie season in 2006.
"Devin is dynamic, you can look at his production. He's had big plays, they're leading the league in punt return. I think that says it all."
At age 32, Hester's 23.6-yard average on 31 kickoffs won't scare you, but he remains troublesome as ever on punt returners where his 15.4-yard per return average leads the NFL.
He broke Deion Sanders' NFL record for combined return for a touchdown with his 20th score off a 62-yard punt return against Tampa Bay in September. In last week's win over Arizona, he returned a punt 68 yards to set a new season-high for himself.
Where the Bears used Hester strictly on special teams last season, he's been a part of the Falcons' offensive plans this season. A converted-defensive back, Hester has caught 27 passes for 362 yards and one touchdown, playing on a little more than a third of Atlanta's offensive snaps.
The Packers have won and lost battles with Hester in the past, mostly on punt returns. He's returned 35 punts for 501 yards (14.3 yards per return) and two touchdowns – an 84-yard return in his first meeting with the Packers on Sept. 10, 2006 and a 62-yarder on Sept. 27, 2010. The Bears won both games.
The Packers contained Hester to two punt returns all of last season, but his last return in a Bears' uniform went for 49 yards in the regular-season finale. He's been quieter as a kickoff returner where he has 31 returns for 714 yards and no touchdowns for a modest 23.0 average.
They got out of having to face Hester once in 2009. Otherwise, it's been a part of the yearly routine.
"I was looking forward to not having to play him when he left Chicago, and he were go," Slocum said.
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Hester versus the Packers
Sept. 10, 2006 (Chicago 26, Green Bay 0): Five punts for 104 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Dec. 31, 2006 (Green Bay 26, Chicago 7): Two punts for 1 yard. Four kickoffs for 79 yards.
Oct. 7, 2007 (Chicago 27, Green Bay 20): Four punts for 40 yards.
Dec. 23, 2007 (Chicago 35, Green Bay 7): One kickoff for minus-1 yard.
Nov. 16, 2008 (Green Bay 37, Chicago 3): One punt for 7 yards. Five kickoffs for 114 yards.
Dec. 22, 2008 (Chicago 20, Green Bay 17): Three punts, 40 yards.
Sept. 13, 2009 (Green Bay 21, Chicago 15): Two punts for 15 yards. One kickoff for 26 yards.
Dec. 13, 2009 (Green Bay 21, Chicago 14): Not active
Sept. 27, 2010 (Chicago 20, Green Bay 17): Three punts for 93 yards, including 62-yard touchdown.
Jan. 2, 2011 (Green Bay 10, Chicago 3): Two punts for 35 yards.
Jan. 23, 2011 (Green Bay 21, Chicago 14): Three punts for 16 yards. One kickoff for 24 yards.
Sept. 25, 2011 (Green Bay 27, Chicago 17): One punt for 21 yards. One kickoff for 24 yards.
Dec. 25, 2011 (Green Bay 35, Chicago 21): Two punts for 7 yards. Five kickoffs for 117 yards.
Sept. 13, 2012 (Green Bay 23, Chicago 10): Two punts for 8 yards. Two kickoffs for 57 yards.
Dec. 16, 2012 (Green Bay 21, Chicago 13): Three punts for 42 yards. Two kickoffs for 63 yards.
Nov. 4, 2013 (Chicago 27, Green Bay 20): One punt for 23 yards. Four kickoffs for 90 yards.
Dec. 29, 2013 (Green Bay 33, Chicago 28): One punt for 49 yards. Five kickoffs for 121 yards.