This is not just the Bears saying goodbye to the greatest returner of all time. This is the NFL making sure nobody like him ever plays again.
The NFL has legislated future Devin Hesters out of existence. That’s all gone, folks. Savor the memories, people. You saw the best, and now you’re seeing the end of that electric greatness forever.
The Bears see an aging returner --- a returner with all the records, but an aging one nonetheless. And a returner who can do nothing except return punts, thus hamstringing roster flexibility. And a returner who does too many silly things to warrant another $2 million-plus in a salary cap world where teams kickoff from the 35-yard line.
That was the last vestige of Hester’s worth. The NFL neutered him a couple years ago when the league moved kickoffs up five yards. That increased touchbacks. That devalued Hester.
The NFL calls it safety. That’s a crock. It’s part of the league’s phony-baloney campaign to act like it cares about head injuries. If you think owners care about head injuries, then you must’ve suffered one yourself.
The NFL cares about money -- making it and not paying it out in lawsuits. It also cares about staying a monopoly, so, with Congress looking in, the NFL moved up kickoffs to fake that concern, saying it would remove the high-speed crashes of special teams.
The NFL ruined a Bears weapon, one that deodorized the fact that Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith didn’t know squat about building an offense.
The NFL also ruined one of the most exciting plays in football. For years, Hester was -- yes, Jeff Joniak -- ridiculous. A record number of return touchdowns if you count all of them.
Sometimes you wanted Lovie’s defense to give up a score so Hester could return a kick. And, lord, nobody started a Super Bowl the way Hester did. Nobody.
And now, because of Hester’s age and the league’s fear of litigation and losing its antitrust exemption, the NFL has made sure nobody ever will again.