Devin Hester got a lot of positive feedback from friends and family happy after his 11th punt-return touchdown Sunday gave him sole possession of the NFL career record. But the most important message came his mom, Juanita Brown.
"Especially my mom, with her fasting and praying and stuff like that," he said. "At the end of the day, your mother's prayers always come through. So I give credit to my mom. She's a praying woman, and without her I know I wouldn't be here today."
Hester celebrated his milestone with three somersaults in the end zone, which drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the ensuing kickoff for excessive celebration. The Panthers took advantage of good field position to drive 64 yards for a touchdown that narrowed their deficit to 24-17.
"It just happened," he said of the gymnastics exhibition. "I don't sit home and think of what kind of dance I'm going to do in the end zone. It doesn't really reach my head until about 10 yards before I reach the end zone."
But Hester said he wouldn't have been as demonstrative if it were later in the game with the outcome still in doubt.
"If it was a game situation," he said, "probably not."
PR Devin Hester
He did not disagree with the penalty.
"I think it's fair," he said. "I know I can't keep flipping like that. (But) you only get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break a record. I don't want to break the record and just make it seem like it was just an ordinary touchdown. If I'm having fun, that's when I play better. When I play like a robot, and I catch a pass, and I just walk back to the huddle, I don't feed off that momentum. But when I go out and have fun and I show my true character, I make more plays. That's just the type of player I am."
--Marion Barber didn't quite get the necessary rotation on his back flip in the end zone after his first touchdown as a Bear, and his face took some of the force of the landing. But coach Lovie Smith wasn't worried that the stunt might aggravate the calf injury that kept Barber out of the first three games.
"I think players know their bodies more a little bit better than we do," Smith said. "But I can assure you that wasn't on my check list. 'Hey Marion, if you score a touchdown, don't do a back flip.' It wasn't on my checklist either about Devin (Hester). 'If you set the all-time career record, don't do that.' But you don't want guys to (get) injured. It's hard enough staying healthy during the play. You don't want them to put themselves at risk. If you decide to make a flip, at least make it all the way over. I'm sure Marion will correct that next time, too."
--Right guard Chris Spencer suffered a small fracture in his right hand Sunday and was temporarily sidelined, but he returned to finish the game and coach Lovie Smith said the seven-year veteran would be available for the Lions game next Monday night.
Lance Louis, who started the season at right guard but suffered a sprained ankle in the season opener, returned for the first time vs. the Panthers to spell Spencer. When Spencer returned, Louis moved to right tackle in place of ineffective Frank Omiyale.
"He filled in nicely," quarterback Jay Cutler said of Louis' work at right tackle. "He's got to be one of the MVPs of the game along with Matt (Forte)."
Louis played well enough that he should be back in the starting lineup in Detroit.
"He played well, and we're still evaluating," Smith said. "Lance contributed in a lot of ways (Sunday), and that just has to make us better in the long run."
Rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi is still at least a couple weeks away from returning from a partially dislocated kneecap.
--RB Matt Forte rushed for 205 yards, tying Walter Payton and Gale Sayers for the second most in a game in franchise history.
--RB Marion Barber, in his first action as a Bear after missing the first three weeks with a calf injury, rushed five times for 17 yards, including a three-yard TD.
--OG Lance Louis returned after missing two games with a sprained ankle. He spelled RG Chris Spencer, when he was temporarily sidelined with a fracture in his right hand, and then took over for ineffective RT Frank Omiyale.
--OG-C Chris Spencer is expected to play in Week 5 despite a small fracture in his right hand.
--S Chris Harris is expected back after missing three games with a hamstring injury.
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