At one point is was Devin Hester that generated tremendous concern against opposing teams. With 18 career touchdown returns for touchdowns (12 punts, five kickoffs, one missed field goal), Hester is arguably one of the best returners in the history of the game.
But now the Bears have their own concerns about return man.
In fact, Chicago is so concerned about Bengals cornerback Adam Jones (and even Brandon Tate) that they sliced a little time during Thursday's practice for additional special teams work.
"Our directional kicking and our ability to cover will be huge in this game," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said via the Chicago Tribute. "We’ve got to kick the ball away from these guys and close down the field and be able to put our cover team in position to make the tackle. If we go down the middle, it’s a very, very difficult job for any team to cover these guys."
Jones earned AFC Special Teams player of the Week after returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns last season. He finished the year ranked seventh in the NFL (11.6 yards/return). Tate will rotate with Jones on punt returns, along with his usual duties as the kickoff return specialist. Tate, who earned AFC Special Teams player of Week in '11, is currently the team's record holder with a career 10.1 yard/return average on punt returns.
"(Jones) likes to wait and dance and find his crease," wide receiver Eric Weems said via the Chicago Tribute. "And then he goes with the football. It makes him very dangerous. You have to take him on differently. You can’t just come out of control or flying down. You have to come on balance, stop the ball and make the tackle with him. ... If you come down at full speed, he’ll (juke) and make the quick move and go."
As for Hester, the Bengals can't sleep, despite his relatively quiet production in respect to failing to score a touchdown on special teams last season. Hester is more energized now that he's working full-time as a returner again. Bengals safety and gunner Jeromy Miles is looking forward to the opportunity.
"It's hard to believe that I'm going against a guy I watched in high school and college. He was one of my favorite players," said Miles via Bengals.com. "He looks like he's got a lot of energy. It looks like he's back to his normal form. It's going to take everybody to stop him."