Always known as a player's coach, it was no surprise that the Chicago Bears' firing of head coach Lovie Smith elicited some strong reactions from Chicago's players.
Worst of the bunch was receiver Devin Hester, who is typically the most soft-spoken member of the team.
"The media, the false fans, you all got what you all wanted. The majority of you all wanted him out. Players as players we wanted him in. I guess the fans, the false fans, out-ruled us," Hester said in the locker room after finding out the news. "I thought he was a great coach, probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. He brought me in."
Hester turned 30 this season, a campaign that did not go as planned for the three-time Pro Bowler. He was non-existent for most of the campaign on offense and his return numbers were the lowest of his career.
Smith is the only head coach Hester has ever played for in the NFL, so the news of his release, on top of a bad season, had Hester questioning his love for the game.
"I’m going to go home and get away from football right now," Hester said. "I don’t even know if I want to play again, man. It’s [been] on my mind now for two years now.”
He said football isn't as fun as it used to be.
“It’s not [fun]," said Hester. "I’ve got my workers’ comp papers in my pocket. We’ll see how I feel. I’m going to go home and talk to my wife, my family. We’ll see where we go from there. I’ve two beautiful kids, man. Two boys. A lot of stress has been on my mind lately.”
He said he wouldn't be averse to considering options outside of Chicago.
“Who knows? If it’s the right place. If not, I feel like I’ve done enough in the league to establish myself to be one of the elite players to ever play the game. God blessed me with seven years. The average years of an NFL player is about three.
“At the same time, I’m a Bear for life. This is where I was born and raised from the start of football.”
Hester still has one year left on his contract. It remains to be seen if the firing of Smith will send him into retirement.
“[Smith] was the coach who took a chance on me [when] the other 32 coaches wouldn’t," said Hester. "I’m hoping I did him right. We had some great moments.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.