Record-setter Devin Hester says he just keeps getting better

The best return man in the history of the NFL says he’s only getting better.

Devin Hester added to his impressive resume on Sunday when he broke a tie with Eric Metcalf atop the all-time list for punt return touchdowns. Hester’s 69-yard score in a 34-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers gave him 11 punt return touchdowns, and brought his overall return touchdown number to 15, the most ever.

The Panthers had a major error in his score. Carolina punter Jeff Baker tried a rugby-style kick and mishit the ball. It resulted in a low, liner directly to Hester in the middle of the field.

“It was like baseball,” said Hester, who turns 29 next month. “He pitched me right down the middle and it gives me great field position to go either way. I can set the defense up, starting one way and go back the other way.

Hester started out right and cut back left, breaking one tackle and going the distance.

He credited Brian Mitchell, who had 13 return touchdowns in his long career, with helping him get better. Hester read an article where Mitchell talked about the importance of studying his blockers and tendencies. Mitchell used to look at old tapes of former Denver Bronco Rick Upchurch.

“I think I am getting a little better,” Hester said. “I am still in the middle of my career and to see a Hall of Fame player mentions that, it lets me know ahead of time -- start realizing how your blocking scheme is designed. I can improve my games while I am still ahead.

“I knew I had the ability to do it, but I didn’t think it was going to go this far. Fortunately, I was blessed with the opportunity to be on a great team like this, you know, with guys on special teams that want the return just as bad as the returner does. And that helps out a lot.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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