Devin Hester may be in the end zone a lot more next season.
According to the Bears' official Web site, head coach Lovie Smith revealed Monday that the All-Pro return specialist will switch from defense to offense beginning with this weekend's full-squad minicamp.
"I think Devin Hester is one of the most exciting players in the NFL with his hands on the football," Smith said. "I think he would be an excellent defensive back also. We just feel that this is in the best interest of us and him for him to achieve his full potential as a football player."
The Bears plan to work Hester in a role similar to how the Saints utilized Reggie Bush last season. Hester will work with the wide receivers at minicamp and will also line up in the backfield at times.
"It's going to be a great experience," Hester said. "I'm just going to go over there and try to give a little spark to the offense. There will be more opportunities to make big plays and I think it's a great idea."
Smith said he is anxious to see what Hester's best fit will be. In the early going, Smith said Hester could be valuable as a running back, slot receiver or even as a single receiver in their two-tight end, two-running back packages.
"Right now we're not going to put any limits on it," Smith said. "He's an offensive weapon right now. That's the only limit we put on him."
Hester shined with the Miami Hurricanes as a wide receiver, running back, cornerback and return specialist. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who said he tried for 13 months to bring Hester to the offensive side, said he felt Hester could be an offensive handful for opponents.
"He's an elite player when he gets the ball in his hands and I'm excited about the opportunity to help him get the ball in his hands, not just returning punts and kickoffs, which is a few times a game," Turner said. "Hopefully we can get it in his hands five, six, seven times [in] different ways."
Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft, Hester was named All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl after setting an NFL record with six combined kick return touchdowns during the regular season.
His 92-yard kickoff return in the Super Bowl made him the first player in league history to return the opening kickoff. He also set team marks for punt return yards, touchdowns in a season and punt return and kickoff return yards in a game.
"We've definitely added a little bit of firepower to our offense in the offseason," Smith said. "There are only a few guys in the league who can make people miss and do the things [Hester] can do with the football."