LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Add this to the list of NFL records for Chicago's Devin Hester — highest punt return average in a season.
The Bears' speedy return specialist averaged 17.1 yards, the highest in league history among players with at least 30 returns. He also set the career record for combined kick return touchdowns last month with his 14th, returning to form after struggling the past few years while trying to adapt to a bigger role at wide receiver.
Hester has returned 33 punts for 564 yards and three TDs. His average topped the previous mark of 16.1 set by Jermaine Lewis of Baltimore in 2000.
Hester's resurgence is a big reason the Bears (11-5) won the NFC North and made the playoffs for the first time in four years.
He had gone two seasons without returning a punt or kickoff for a touchdown after running back 11 to the end zone in his first two seasons. That drought ended when he took a punt 62 yards against Green Bay in late September.
Hester broke Brian Mitchell's record for combined kick return TDs with a 64-yard punt return against Minnesota on Dec. 20. That gave him 10 punt return touchdowns in his career, tying Eric Metcalf's record.
Not included in Hester's 14 kick return TDs are a missed field goal that he ran back 108 yards, and the touchdown on the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl four years ago.