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Count Bears' Hester as not surprised teams still kick to him

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- There's at least one person who doesn't think kicking to Devin Hester is a bad idea -- him.

The Chicago Bears' superstar return specialist says he's not surprised when teams kick to him even though he continues to rewrite the record book.

He said the odds still don't favor him, and changing a game plan for one player is "too much" for a special teams unit no matter how dominant he is.

The league's all-time leader in combined kick-return touchdowns (17), including an NFL-record 12 on punt returns, he was particularly dangerous last week as the Bears pounded Detroit.

He ran back three punts for 122 yards in just one half before leaving the game and ran one back 82 yards to the end zone despite strep throat, swollen tonsils, high fever and a sprained ankle.

"When you're sick, you're just in a relaxing mode," Hester said. "You're just really living life up, living it up. I wasn't stressed out or anything. I was just out there being ready."

Despite his ailments, he delivered the sort of performance that again raised the question: Why kick to him?

San Diego coach Norv Turner made it clear the Chargers will proceed with caution when they visit the Bears on Sunday.

"We have an outstanding punter (Mike Scifres) and we've come a long ways; we've improved a great deal in our coverage teams," Turner said. "But it's not a deal where you want to put our guys out there and say, 'Go cover him.' We have to have a plan and we do have a plan. That plan has to be flexible because we're aware that we're in a stadium where the elements will be a big part of it. A lot of it as far as how you kick the ball and what your approach is has to do with where you're punting from."

The Chargers are allowing 26.5 yards per punt return and rank 27th in that category, so on the surface, this doesn't look like a great matchup. But they were able to take Hester out of the game the last time they played the Bears in 2007, limiting him to one kickoff return in a 14-3 victory over Chicago.

This season, he is averaging 20.1 yards on punt returns and has two touchdowns. On kickoff returns, Hester is averaging 24.0 yards and had a 98-yard touchdown against Minnesota last month.

Notes: The Bears held out from practice CB D.J. Moore because of an ankle injury, while DE Julius Peppers (sprained knee) practiced.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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