BOURBONNAIS, Ill. - Devin Hester, who electrified the NFL with 11 punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns in his first two seasons, skipped the Chicago Bears' first training camp practice yesterday in a holdout.
Hester, a two-time Pro Bowler, was placed on the Bears' reserve/did not report list.
"I'm not coming," Hester told the Chicago Tribune in a phone interview. "I have to make a statement. I showed by going to [organized team activities] that I was a team player. But then, I just felt like they weren't taking it seriously that I wanted to get a new deal."
Hester, who also played wide receiver last season, has two years remaining on his initial deal. He was the Bears' second round-draft pick in 2006.
In addition to his four kickoff returns and seven punt returns for touchdowns over two seasons, he also returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a TD and took the opening kickoff of the 2007 Super Bowl 92 yards for a score.
As a receiver last season, trying to learn the nuances of the position, he had 20 catches, with an 81-yard TD.
"I can't go out and play this year making $445,000. Come on, man," Hester said.
The Bears have given new deals this offseason to Lance Briggs, Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, Desmond Clark, and Alex Brown. Also yesterday, the team signed this year's first-round pick, tackle Chris Williams of Vanderbilt, to a five-year deal reportedly worth $16 million.
General manager Jerry Angelo said after practice at Olivet Nazarene University he was surprised and disappointed that Hester was a no-show.
"Unexpected. We thought Devin was going to be here. As you know, we've been negotiating with Devin for a while and we are continually negotiating with him as well. So I really don't know why he isn't here today," Angelo said.
Angelo said he'd talked a few days ago to Eugene Parker, Hester's agent.
"He floated it out there, but I didn't really take it serious because, as I say, we are still talking, we're still in the process, there's no closure."
ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams defensive end Claude Wroten was suspended without pay for the season yesterday for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Wroten, entering his third season with the Rams, was suspended for four games last season. His draft stock fell in 2006 when he was stopped for speeding and police discovered marijuana in the vehicle.
The charge of possession with intent to distribute was dropped, but he also failed a drug test at the NFL combine. He is eligible to be reinstated on May 30, 2009.
SAN DIEGO - Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo has agreed to a five-year contract extension through 2014 valued at about $43 million.
The deal will pay Castillo a guaranteed $17.5 million in signing and roster bonuses.
Castillo's contract, signed as a rookie in 2005, had been due to expire after the 2009 season.
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