Ravens move on from Hester, promote Campanaro
— 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
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
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.