Smith likes Hester's progress at receiver

Published: 8/15/2008 12:10 AM

BOURBONNAIS - At the conclusion Thursday of Bears training camp 2008, coach Lovie Smith said most of the questions about Devin Hester's ability to be a starting wide receiver in the NFL had 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. I still make the same statement: I think he can be a 1- or 2-type receiver in the league. He's dangerous when he has his hands on the football, and we're excited about getting his hands on the ball in a lot of different ways."

Hester had 1 catch for 16 yards in the first preseason game and 1 punt return for 1 yard. He said he's prepared to contribute on offense and special teams.

"I don't know how the season's going to (go) as far as the reps on offense and the return game," Hester said. "So I have to prepare myself to go a full game, the return game and offense. I just worked harder."

Moving on up: Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has high expectations for this season, but the defense will have to stay healthier than last season for the Bears to live up to them.

"Why would I come to work if I didn't expect (to be dominant)?" Harris said. "I don't expect us to be at the bottom like we were last year. So we have a new year, a new slate, and let's see the outcome."

The Bears finished 28th in yards allowed last season, when Harris played hurt much of the year and fellow defensive tackles Dusty Dvoracek, Anthony Adams and Darwin Walker missed a total of 24 games because of injuries.

"I think it speaks for itself, the injuries," Harris said. "If this unit is healthy, how far we can go? I think the sky's the limit."

Friendly skies: The four-plus- hour flight to Seattle today is more enjoyable for some players than others.

"I'm actually kind of excited because now I'm in first class," Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs said. "It's going to be rough for some of the younger guys because they're going to be three to a seat, but I'm going to enjoy this trip."

Since the Bears still have a 79-man roster, their flight will be more crowded than in the regular season, but each player - rookie or not - gets his own seat. Players certainly won't have their own row, as is sometimes the case.

"I'm going on Year 6 now, so you're definitely pulling the vet card out," Briggs said. "You get comfortable seating."

Just then rookie running back Matt Forte walked past and Briggs said: "Forte's gonna get three to a seat. But it ain't gonna be long before he's going to be up in first class in a year or two."