Devin Hester: Injuries, Lack Of Practice Causing Fumbling Issues


Even arguably the best special teams returner of all-time needs practice.

Devin Hester has fumbled four times in six games with the Ravens this year, and it's leading to questions about whether he's still trustworthy enough to keep sending back to field kicks. After all, the most important job of a returner is to secure the ball.

This week, Hester and the Ravens said the issue has been his health, which they are hoping will clear up with extra rest over the bye.

"I don't feel like myself," Hester said. "It's tough."

Hester said he tweaked his hamstring in Cleveland in Week 2. He started missing practice time before the Ravens' Week 4 game against Oakland, the week after a muffed punt in Jacksonville could have cost Baltimore a victory.

He still played against the Raiders, but fumbled on a kickoff return to open the second half. He was lucky enough to fall directly on top of it and the Ravens retained possession.

Hester sat out the Week 6 game against the Giants, but returned versus the Jets and fumbled twice more. He fumbled one punt return out of bounds as he went to the sideline, then muffed a punt return but recovered it himself.

"It's a concern," Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said.

"I'm really looking forward to having a healthy Devin Hester out there. It's affecting him in two ways: one is just his ability to move, and the other is his ability to practice. It's a tough skill, and he needs to practice. The practice he's been getting is in pre-game warm-ups, and that's not enough."

Since Sept. 23 (in over a month), Hester has had just one full practice, which came last Friday. He has missed six practices over the four weeks.

Hester said the injury in one hamstring has since spread to the other because he was overcompensating to stay on the field.

The Ravens don't have a lot of options at returner this year. When Hester was out, they turned to veteran safety Lardarius Webb, who is very secure catching the ball and making decisions, but who the Ravens don't really want making many returns. He's not as explosive as Hester can be.

The hope is that with extra rest, the 33-year-old Hester, who the Ravens signed to a one-year contract days before the regular-season opener, can get healthy and back to his former ways.

A toe injury limited him to just five games last year, leading to his release from the Atlanta Falcons and keeping him on the free-agency market for much of the summer.

The NFL's all-time returns scoring leader (20 touchdowns) has averaged just four fumbles per season over his 11-year career, and hasn't had more than five since 2007.

"He has been battling some injuries. It's my hope that it's not because he's gotten older and that's going to continue all year, but I don't know," Harbaugh said. "I think when he's healthy, he'll secure the football even better than he has, and he'll make some big returns for us."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content