Hester vows to be more aggressive in return game
After temporarily benching the greatest combined kick-returner in NFL history last week, special teams coach Dave Toub said Devin Hester needs to be more aggressive.
"He's right," Hester said. "I have to be more aggressive to the ball. I'm going to man up and confess that I haven't been as aggressive as I normally should. The good thing is, I know what mistakes I made, and the mistakes I made I know how to fix them."
Hester holds the NFL record with 17 combined kick-return touchdowns, including a 69-yard punt return for a score in last year's game against the Panthers, Sunday's opponent.
Hester had an increased role on offense last week, but he says that's not an excuse for any shortcomings in the return game.
"I really didn't play that much on offense," said Hester, who was targeted six times and caught 3 passes for 38 yards. "I probably played 35 plays on offense, so that really didn't hinder my return game."
The key for Hester is being aggressive without trying to force things that aren't there.
"It's kind of borderline," he said. "When you get an opportunity, you've just got to be aggressive, make those plays and try to steal one. That's something that I've got to start doing. The (punts) I'm capable of returning, I've just got to go ahead and be aggressive and make them."
The Bears' defense has blitzed a bit more the past two weeks and linemen have created mismatches for opponents by lining up at different positions. But coordinator Rod Marinelli says that's not what makes his crew so difficult to prepare for.
"We're doing some nice things and all that," Marinelli conceded, "but we've got great players above anything else. The (assistant) coaches who coach them do a super job.
"The one thing I think that's always difficult when we're playing fast and hard is (for opponents) to recreate our speed in practice. They've got to be able to get a 'look squad' that can play with our quickness and speed. That's something we pride ourselves on is how fast we can play."
A different animal:
Cornerback Charles Tillman shut down the Lions' 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson last week, but the Bears have never come up with a successful plan for shackling the Panthers' 5-foot-9 Steve Smith, who presents different problems.
"He's shorter, he's faster, and he's a little bit quicker," Tillman said. "He's a smaller guy, but he plays big. He's a nightmare to defenses, and this will be another good matchup for this defense."
In three games against the Bears since 2005, Smith has 34 catches for 568 yards.
After going through a full practice Friday, quarterback Jay Cutler (ribs) was listed as probable, as was tight end Brody Eldridge, who missed Thursday with an illness. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will sit his second straight game with a broken hand.
For the Lions, backup defensive ends Antwan Applewhite (thigh) is out and Thomas Keiser (elbow) is doubtful. Starting defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) is probable, as are defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hand), cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (leg) and tight end Ben Hartsock (calf).
Fans are being warned to be diligent when buying tickets second-hand because of an increased incidence of counterfeiting and other deceptive practices.
"TicketMaster and the NFL Ticket Exchange are the only 100 percent sources of getting tickets for games," Bears vice president of communications Scott Hagel said. "(With) anything else, like Craigslist or other online outlets, you have to be very careful in terms of what you're buying."
Even some tickets that appear authentic are illegitimate because they have been stolen and then reported to the Bears, who cancel them. But the stolen tickets still go back out on the street and are bought by unsuspecting fans.