One of the biggest off-season moves for the Atlanta Falcons was acquiring all-world return man Devin Hester, and the acquisition was instantly met with fanfare and a sense that the Falcons higher ups clearly weren’t going to sit back and allow last year to unfold all over again, at least, not without trying to make some changes.
Hester, another famous No. 23, said he signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Falcons in March only after it became the clear the Bears didn’t want him back. He wanted to retire with the Bears — ‘‘because of the things that happened there, that I accomplished as an individual and we did as a team,’’ he said — but was met with reality, like others before him.
‘‘It’s not like I had a choice to sign with them again,’’ he said. ‘‘They didn’t even call me to let me know they were willing to bring me back. I didn’t hear from them at all. It made it a lot easier for me to say, ‘OK,’ and then go look for another team.’’
On the face of it, Hester’s comments certainly might seem like an insult to the Falcons (and the way that Atlanta sports fans are, I guarantee that most will take it this way), let’s not be brash about anything. How would you feel if you had broken all sorts of records, both in team history and league history, with a team, and had spent you’re whole career with the team, only to find out they didn’t want you back?
It’s almost comparable to John Smoltz ending his career with the Red Sox and Cardinals, and not Atlanta. He, no doubt, wanted to stay with the Braves – much like a guy like Chipper Jones inevitably did – but, as the old cliche goes, it is indeed a business, and the Falcons (seemingly) got to reap what Chicago sowed during the off-season.
Hester signed a 3-year, $9 million deal with the Dirty Birds this January, and returned three total kicks (two punts and one kickoff) in Friday’s preseason game against Miami.