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BOURBONNAIS–When the Bears broke training camp last, coach Lovie Smith pointed to Devin Hester as one of the few real questions about the team that has been answered. “Coming into camp we talked about him as a returner that a lot of people tho

BOURBONNAIS–When the Bears broke training camp last, coach Lovie Smith pointed to Devin Hester as one of the few real questions about the team that has been answered.

“Coming into camp, we talked about him as a returner that a lot of people thought could play receiver,” Smith said. “Now I think it’s safe to say that he’s a receiver. He’s doing all the things that we’ve asked him to do.”

Hester held out at the camp’s outset, but reported and eventually got a contract extension worth a possible $40 million. He worked daily against cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman to make the transition from a record-setting return man and offensive novelty to a key part of the offense.

“Peanut is probably one of the best corners in the league because he’s very physical,” Hester said. “You know once you go against Peanut, you’re going to have to be prepared to fight.”

Practice battles haven’t been quite like those between Tillman and former Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad were the last three years, but Hester said he has been learning how to fight back against physical tactics designed to smother his speed.

“Peanut is an aggressive corner. He’s going to get his hands on you,” Hester said. “Receivers don’t like corners getting their hands on someone. Going against a corner that’s real aggressive, you’ve got to step up and play big.”

Hester said camp has also been a plus for his conditioning, something he wanted to work on because he will be pressed into much more playing time as a return man.

“So I have to prepare myself to go a full game, the return game and offense–I just worked harder,” he said.

The Bears, who play Saturday night in a preseason game at Seattle, are returning to Halas Hall and Lake Forest for the final two weeks of training camp.

They completed the Olivet Nazarene University portion of camp with two key injuries that require surgery: Top draft pick Chris Williams’ herniated disc and guard Terrence Metcalf’s knee sprain. Metcalf is expected back before the regular season, but Williams could be out half the season or longer.

The one big question that hasn’t yet been answered is starting quarterback. Saturday’s game will go a long way toward deciding the battle between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton. Grossman starts Saturday after Orton started the preseason opener.

“For us, going into camp, we had a lot of positions that were open,” Smith said. “Guys were fighting for positions. All of them have stepped up, and we’ll just keep that evaluation going. To me … a successful camp a lot of times is when you get out injury free, and we’ve done that for the most part. And again we’ve gotten good work done.”

AP

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In photo: After an excellent training camp, Bears head coach Lovie Smith says Devin Hester will see plenty of action at the wide receiver position this season. Hester and the Bears will host the San Francisco 49ers in preseason action Thursday at Soldier Field.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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