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Devin Hester Will Be Ravens' Returner From The Start


Even though Devin Hester had his first practice as a Raven just five days before the team's regular-season opener, the veteran is in line to be Baltimore's returner from the jump.

Officially signed to a one-year deal Monday, Hester suited up for a lighter walkthrough practice Tuesday. Expect to see him fielding kickoffs and punts in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. 

"He looks like a player, immediately," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"I'm not worried about him being able to handle the job at all. We are excited about him, and we are anticipating him being out there handling kicks and punts for us, at least, on Sunday."

The four-time Pro Bowler is one of the best returners in NFL history. He holds the record for most career return touchdowns (14) and has 10,382 total return yards in his 10 NFL seasons.

He averaged 26.1 yards per kick return last season, which is above his 24.9 yard average, but only 4.3 yards on eight punt returns.

Hester, 33, is adamant that he still has more gas left in the tank. Hester said he looks up to the greats, such as Michael Jordan, who always felt like they could get better – even as their careers wound down.

"Not a day goes by where I don't feel like I have to improve," Hester said. "Deep down inside, I still feel like I have a lot more to prove."

Hester was available for signing because the Atlanta Falcons released him on July 26 due to an injured toe, which required surgery this offseason. He said he was "still hurting" at the time of his release after undergoing rehab and treatment, but said he's at full strength now.

The Ravens put him through a workout to ensure there were no lingering effects before signing him. Harbaugh said Hester had no side effects from the workouts and is in very good shape.

"This was an injury I just felt like time was the only thing that was going to heal it," Hester said.

Hester said teams started calling his agent as soon as he was released, and the Ravens were one of the first. He did his own research and found out Baltimore was the league's top special teams unit last year and one of the best over the past several seasons.

"That was No. 1 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."

Hester also realized that Harbaugh worked with his former special teams coordinator with the Chicago Bears, Dave Toub, while the two were coaching for the Philadelphia Eagles. Hester believes that will help him quickly transition to the Ravens, which he said uses "the same exact scheme."

When it comes down to it, the Ravens don't have any other punt returners on the roster and Hester has been doing it – at a high level – for a decade. Baltimore's other two options were Michael Campanaro and rookie Keenan Reynolds, who were put on injured reserve (calf) and signed to the practice squad, respectively.

"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 returners standpoint and I feel like I can come here right away and contribute."

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