Ravens move on from Hester, pro­mote Cam­pa­naro

Cecil Whig - - A••END A FREE - By SEAN GROGAN

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Bal­ti­more Ravens cut kick re­turner Devin Hester fol­low­ing the loss to the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots on Mon­day Night Foot­ball.

Bal­ti­more pro­moted wide re­ceiver Michael Cam­pa­naro from the prac­tice squad to the ac­tive ros­ter Wed­nes­day to fill the open­ing.

“That was a lit­tle bit of a tough move, just be­cause we have so much re­spect for Devin and the ef­fort he’s put in. I told him I feel like we didn’t get the job done,” head coach John Har­baugh said Wed­nes­day. “This is a move that we just think makes us stronger as a team. Noth­ing against Devin; he’s done ev­ery­thing he can do, and his skill set is still there. We just haven’t done the job in the re­turn game.”

Hester, 34, is widely con­sid­ered to be the great­est re­turn man in NFL his­tory and likely a fu­ture Hall of Famer. He holds a league record 20 re­turn touch­downs, in­clud­ing 14 punt re­turn scores.

But Hester had been a shell of his old self dur­ing his only sea­son with Bal­ti­more. He fum­bled five times and av­er­ages just 7.2 yards per punt re­turn.

His great­est of­fense, how­ever, has been a hes­i­tancy to field punts. His fi­nal strike came Mon­day night when Hester ne­glected to fair catch a seem­ingly playable ball. The de­ci­sion pinned the Ravens at their own 1-yard line. Run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon was tack­led in the end zone for a safety on the fol­low­ing play and Bal­ti­more

OWINGS MILLS

trailed the Pa­tri­ots 2-0 early.

Har­baugh hopes to see the op­po­site from Cam­pa­naro, the man who will likely take over Hester’s du­ties.

“I want to see him catch the ball and make good de­ci­sions,” Har­baugh said. “Those are one and two, and then get us some yards, num­ber three. That’s the job of that po­si­tion.”

Cam­pa­naro cut off a ques­tion about one of the best kick re­turn­ers in his­tory Wed­nes­day. “The best,” Cam­pa­naro in­ter­rupted. He went on to say that Hester was more than just some­one to em­u­late over the course of the sea­son.

“I learned a ton. We talked a ton about dif­fer­ent re­turns,” Cam­pa­naro said. “[He is a] great men­tor, great vet­eran who was will­ing to teach me and was al­ways giv­ing me ad­vice, so it sucks to see him go but it is an op­por­tu­nity and I’m just look­ing to make the most of it.”

Cam­pa­naro has flashed tal­ent over his first two NFL sea­sons, but also an in­abil­ity to stay healthy. The third-year pro has played in only eight to­tal games.

“I’ve been work­ing hard. It’s been good just be­ing on the prac­tice squad for a few weeks, get­ting my legs in foot­ball shape and just get­ting com­fort­able with the of­fense,” he said. “I’m just grate­ful for an­other op­por­tu­nity with the or­ga­ni­za­tion and the coaches. I’m just ex­cited to play foot­ball again.”

It re­mains to be seen how much of a role – if any – Cam­pa­naro will have of­fen­sively, but he will im­me­di­ately fac­tor heav­ily into the re­turn game. Har­baugh said Wed­nes­day that safety Lar­dar­ius Webb would, too.

“I’m just go­ing to stick with my fun­da­men­tals re­turn­ing punts and kicks, just mak­ing smart de­ci­sions back there,” Cam­pa­naro said. “[I] love re­turn­ing punts and kicks. It’s a big play, It’s a game changer, so I’m just look­ing to go out there and make a pos­i­tive im­pact.”

Fol­low Sean Grogan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN/TNS

The Bal­ti­more Ravens cut Devin Hester Sr. (14) Tues­day, one day af­ter the vet­eran re­turn spe­cial­ist made a costly de­ci­sion not to fair catch a punt.

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