Hester ended a frustrating 2012 season by telling reporters immediately after coach Bears coach Lovie Smith was fired that he would consider retirement. After a month of reflection with his wife and family, the 30-year-old receiver/return specialist has had a change of heart.
"At the same time, I think I do need a fresh start.''
Entering his eighth season, Hester has one year left on his contract with a base salary of $1.85 million that would count $2.94 million against the salary cap. Although a part of him wants to remain with the Bears, he understands the reality of his diminishing role on offense.
Hester, who caught a career-high 57 passes in 2009, saw his receptions dip to 23 (career-low 10.5 yards per catch) this season as Brandon Marshall (118 receptions) became the focal point of the offense. Hester felt totally ignored on offense, at times. His frustration mounted as his touches faded both during games and in practice.
"Not only this year, but the last couple of years it has been like that,'' said Hester, who added receiver to his resume in 2007. "It was really starting to show, why I was frustrated.
"I'm not making any excuses. I know some of the plays I should have made in terms of catching the ball. But I just wasn't feeling it. My mind wasn't there the majority of the time.''
The former second-round draft pick was asked if he would seek a trade.
"It's a possibility,'' he said. "I'm loyal to my team. But the fans and my teammates have to understand where I'm coming from.
"I don't want to walk away from this game with another season going the way it ended this year. … It might have to take a fresh start somewhere else.''
New Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has reached out to Hester. The three-time Pro Bowl returner still owns the NFL record with 17 career kick return touchdowns despite not having one last season. His total likely will gain him some Hall of Fame consideration.
"He told me I had a lot left in my tank and he'd love to have me back,'' Hester said of DeCamillis' message. "He said he would hate to be coaching against me.''
Hester is willing to return strictly to returning if he remains with the Bears.
"To be honest with you, if I'm still here, I don't want to play offense,'' he said. "I don't think my role (on offense) will fit. I can't truly say that with the new offense, but from past experience, I don't think it will fit.''
Yet a part of Hester wants to prove himself as a pass catcher. He also has contemplated a return to cornerback, the spot he played as a rookie reserve.
"I've thought about that every year,'' Hester said of playing defense. "If I got into a system where we're pretty much manned up, I could do that at DB.''
No matter where he ends up playing next season or what position he settles into, Hester feels his body will hold up. He doesn't believe age has contributed to any decline.
"I still feel good,'' Hester said. "When we play basketball, I'm still jumping out the gym. I don't think I'm falling off, with the physical part.''
But mentally, Hester has to get on track.
"If I'm here, I want to bring another Super Bowl title to this city,'' he said. "I love the fans and the support. But I don't want to play this game like I have the last couple of years — not having fun.
"I'm the type of person who plays off emotions and feelings. When I'm happy and having fun, it shows. When I'm not happy, it shows as well.''