Deion Sanders praises Devin Hester
Deion Sanders is a first-year eligible candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2011, but if he gets elected, don't expect Sanders to claim he was the best return man of all time.
I think right now he's a Hall of Famer. I can't think of a returner ever playing the game with the impact he has.” -- Deion Sanders on Devin Hester
That honor, Sanders said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000, goes to Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester, who set the NFL record Monday night with his 14th return for a touchdown.
"I think right now he's a Hall of Famer," Sanders said. "He spent a couple years without barely getting the ball kicked to him. I can't think of a returner ever playing the game with the impact he has. There is none. He's phenomenal. Not only that, he's a great kid.
"I tweeted last week that he's the greatest returner of all time, hands down."
Hester returned a punt 64 yards for a score in the Bears' 40-14 win over the Vikings, which clinched the NFC North title.
After scoring 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons, Hester saw fewer punts the following two years and was barely used as a kick returner last year as he transitioned to wide receiver. There was speculation that Hester's concentration on receiving negatively affected his return efficiency.
"You don't forget how to run or how to maneauver or lose your vision or your sight or your burst," Sanders said. "The talent level in front of him was not the same.
"The Bears are winning, the talent level was upgraded in the offseason. Now you have those guys who are backups on offense and defense playing on special teams, and now they're doing the job. All you have to do is give Devin a little crease, give him some daylight and he's going to find it. He didn't lose it by any means, just because he was playing receiver. The guy is unbelievable."
Sanders, who returned six punts and three kicks for touchdowns, said practicing for a position does not affect return skills.
Hester's Touchdown Returns
Devin Hester returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown on Sunday. Relive his record returns in photos. Gallery »
"You should focus on your main position at hand," said Sanders, considered one of the top cornerbacks of his era. "Kickoff and punt returns are just a reaction. It's not like a staged play. It's a reaction.
"You catch the ball and react to what you see. You really can't teach that, and you don't really have to practice that. I never practiced returning a darn punt. It just happens. You don't practice returning a kick, it happens. The other guys, it's like choreography with the other guys fulfilling their assignments and getting body on body to get Devin a crease. That's all he needs."