The Baltimore Ravens announced Tuesday that they waived veteran return specialist Devin Hester, who signed with the team just before the 2016 season began. In the announcement, which came via Ryan Mink on the team’s official website, the Ravens weren’t particularly kind.
“The Ravens have waived veteran special teams returner Devin Hester Sr. after he made another mistake in Monday night’s 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots,” Mink wrote.
“Hester, 34, has not fielded the ball confidently on many occasions this season, and the latest gaffe led to two points for the Patriots.”
The Ravens are surely smarting after Monday night’s tough loss to the Patriots, and Hester’s performance didn’t help. But you’ve already waived the guy, Baltimore. Do you have to be so mean about it?
That wasn’t all Mink had to say about Hester.
“After the Ravens defense held the Patriots to a second straight three-and-out to start the game, the Patriots punted to Hester,” Mink continued. “He had time to make a fair catch, but moved out of the way, allowing the ball to bounce and roll to the 1-yard line.”
Sure, that’s not ideal field position, and it didn’t work out well for Baltimore. New England was able to get to running back Kenneth Dixon in the end zone for a safety, taking a 2-0 lead.
Hester has been doing this since 2006, and he said after the game there was a reason he didn’t fair catch that punt.
“It’s one of those instances where I’m reacting to one of my teammates being close to the ball,” Hester said. “My first instinct was to clear everybody out of there. If it hit him, it could have been a turnover.”
Hester’s justification didn’t matter to the Ravens, who are clearly displeased. Mink continued to pile on Hester in the statement about his release.
“Early on, (Hester) said (his performance) was because hamstring injuries limited his mobility and practice reps,” Mink wrote. “He attributed it to not getting enough work to feel comfortable. But Hester hasn’t been on the injury report since the bye at the start of November, and has still made mistakes.”
Transitioning to the Ravens wasn’t easy for Hester, who spent most of the 2015 season with the Atlanta Falcons on the sideline due to a brutal turf toe injury and subsequent surgery.
After his struggles in Baltimore this season, it’s possible the Ravens will be the last stop for Hester. If he doesn’t sign elsewhere and this is the way his career ends, it makes Baltimore’s approach here seem even more unkind.
Hester is one of the most prolific return specialists in the history of the NFL, and his stint in Baltimore, and the Ravens’ article about him, shouldn’t overshadow his illustrious career.
He has been named to the Pro Bowl four times, and he’s a three-time first team All-Pro. Hester holds NFL records for the most return touchdowns of all time with 20, and the most career punt return touchdowns with 14. He is tied for the most return touchdowns in a single season with six.