The Ravens were the obvious choice for new return man Devin Hester
Devin Hester is one of the most prolific punt returners in NFL history. He has returned a league record 14 punts for touchdowns. The Atlanta Falcons surprisingly released Hester in July while he was recovering from a toe injury. He still received plenty of interest from other teams but wanted to give himself time to recover before signing with a team.
“When the [Atlanta] Falcons released me, I was still hurting,” Hester said. “I wasn’t able to perform; I wasn’t able to practice. From that point on, they released me; teams started calling. And at the same time, I told my agent, and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s just go ahead and give this toe time to heal.’ Not too much rushing, really rehab, going back to rehabbing, really give it time. This was an injury I just felt like time was the only thing that was going to heal it. I did all the treatment I could do, and it still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. So, at the end of the day, we just realized time would heal everything.”
Hester said the Ravens were one of the teams that reached out soon after he was released by the Falcons. He began to do some research on the various teams that showed interest and found a lot of familiar things about the Ravens special teams group.
“First of all, I looked at the history of special teams; [that was] number one for me,” Hester said. “I’m a special teams guy, I return, and I wanted to go to a special teams unit that was pretty much one of the dominant teams in the league. I found [out] myself that the Ravens were in the Top 5 for the last five years or something. They were ranked No. 1 last year. And then they were also under my old special
“They were ranked number one last year. And then they were also under my old special teams coach in Chicago, Dave Toub, and those guys, they all worked together, so they run the same exact scheme. And then with the same exact scheme that they run, the group of guys that we have here, it wasn’t a hard choice to pick the Ravens.”
Despite holding numerous NFL records, Hester still has a chip on his shoulder. Getting released is never easy for anyone, especially a veteran player as established as Hester. He feels he has something to prove.
As an aging player, Hester has found it necessary to change his diet. No longer does he grab a quick meal from McDonald’s. His focus is on eating right. Hester also noticed how injuries such as the toe injury he just recovered from take longer to heal. He finds himself undergoing more treatment, spending more time in the weight room and focusing on getting more sleep to help his body recover better.
Although he’s late to the party by joining the Ravens at this point, Hester is confident that his decade of playing experience will allow him to step right in for Baltimore.
“As a returner, I feel, is all about experience,” Hester said. “Everybody out here can run fast, can make guys miss, but I feel as though when you’re back there you’ve got to be able to manage the game, you’ve got to make the right decisions, pick up small instincts just by repetition. And I feel like I’ve put a lot of time in it from the returner’s standpoint, and I feel like I can come here right away and contribute.”