Hester signs 4-year extension with the Bears

Matt Trowbridge

The Bears finished a two-year long mission of tying up their stars by signing All-Pro kick returner Devin Hester to a four-year extension Sunday.

Terms were not disclosed, but the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times reported that $15 million was guaranteed and that if incentives were met, the contract could max out at $40 million. Counting the two years left on his current contract, Hester is now signed through the 2013 season.

Hester had two years remaining on his original four-year rookie deal that would have paid him $445,000 this season. He held out the first two days of training camp and missed Chicago’s first five practices. He did return a few punts Saturday night, but did not wear pads or practice on offense, where the Bears hope to turn him into their No. 1 receiver. The team has said he had a sore hamstring, but he’s expected to practice now that he’s signed.

“We’ve been waiting for this,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said at noon, three hours before Chicago’s Sunday practice. “We need to get him out there and go. He needs to get the reps. Hopefully, he will be out there today.”

Hester is the ninth Bear signed to a contract extension this offseason before he hit the open mark. A 10th Bear, linebacker Lance Briggs, was re-signed as a free-agent. Those 10 players include five Pro Bowlers: Briggs, Hester, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and Robbie Gould. The other five are: Alex Brown, Desmond Clark, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and Rashied Davis.

The Bears also re-signed four players to extensions before last season started: Olin Kreutz, Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman and Hunter Hillenmeyer. That makes 14 veterans re-signed in less than 18 months, including eight Pro Bowlers.

Hester, next to Urlacher, may have been the most important signing. Those were the only two who threatened to hold out.

“We knew he was going to be here playing,” receiver Rashied Davis said. “We just were waiting on when everything was going to be finished up and he was going to be back out on the field.”

The Bears don’t plan on wasting any time with Hester.

“We’re going to start getting him in the mix,” Turner said. “He had a great offseason, with OTAs and minicamp. We’re looking for him to pick up where he left off. It’s going to take awhile to get the rust off and get the timing, but he has to get out there to do it.”

Hester is expected to speak after practice.

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or