Falcons returner/wide receiver Devin Hester, formerly of the Chicago Bears, signed a three-year, $9 million contract after becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Hester is best returner of his era and was voted to the all-decade 2000s team.
At age 31, the Falcons believe he has enough left in the tank to return kickoffs, punts and play some wide receiver on offense.
Here’s a Q&A with Hester today:
Q: What other teams were interested in signing you?
A: We had about 13 teams. We kind of (narrowed) it down to about four teams: Tampa, the 49ers, a little bit of Miami and Seattle came into the picture.
Q: Was it accurate that you were looking for $4 million per year?
A: The price range was between three and four (million).
Q: Did you talk to Deion Sanders, your mentor, about Atlanta?
A: I never really mentioned it to him. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him in about two weeks now. We didn’t really get a chance to talk about Atlanta at the time.
Q: Did you talk to him about the free agency process?
A: Naw. Not really. I just been kind of business, but we have the same agent (Eugene Parker). So we’ve just kind of communicated though (Parker). He texts me every morning to just let me know what’s going on and how he feels about the situation. He said it was probably going to be a long process or a quick one depending on the situation. It worked out pretty much for the best.
Q: How many positions do you plan on playing in Atlanta?
A: As of right now, kickoff and punt return. From meeting with the coaches and everything, a little special offense.
Q: What made you choose Atlanta from all of those teams?
A: Atlanta, at the end of the day, was the team that showed the most interest. It’s a winning program. I looked at them as a team that I know is going to have a good season. . . .last year was a little downfall for these guys because injuries occurred. This is a playoff team without any injuries, so I knew it was a big chance of us . … first of all making the playoffs and hopefully competing for the Super Bowl. That played a big factor. Then, these guys, like I said, showed the most interest.
Q: How do you fit in the Falcons offense?
A: This is an explosive offense. These guys love to throw the ball, so I know that won’t be a problem. The past couple of years in Chicago, things weren’t really working out on the offensive side of the ball, so the coaches and I came to an agreement to focus more on kickoff and punt returns.
Q: Could you describe, for the Falcons fans, your returning style?
A: Oh, I’m a hype man. I want to get the crowd involved in this phase of the game. I think special teams are a key to the ball game. As far as field position, putting points on the board and changing momentum of the game and the tempo. I’m going to go in there and do my best …to help this offense get field position and put points on the board as well.
Q: What are your thoughts on the kickoff rule changes and if you think they are phasing the kickoff out of the game?
A: Hopefully, the rule doesn’t come about for three or four more years. From that point on, I won’t have to worry about anybody breaking my record. But as of right now, I think last year I came off of my career high in yardage. I don’t think it’s slowing me down any part of that. I just focus on catching the ball coming forward. That saves me a lot of time doing that and it allows me to come out (of the end zone). I’m putting the ball at the 28 or 29-yard line. I know that the offense would rather start at the 28 or 29 rather than the 20-yard line.
Q: Your thoughts on returning in a Domed stadium?
A: I love it. I want to say what I love about it, but then teams are going to avoid it. I learned to not give all of my secrets away because they’ll start picking up on stuff like that.