CHICAGO IL - JANUARY 23: Sam Shields #37 of the Green Bay Packers sacks quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears in the second quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23 2011 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
As we roll on with the countdown, we are reminded that Ndamukong Suh isn't the only one who lets his emotions get the better of him in this division of heated rivalries. Back on September 25, 2011, fellow University of Miami alumni Sam Shields and Devin Hester got into a shoving match while matched up on one another, and Hester was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
In 2012, expect this battle of two speedy former Hurricanes to carry increased significance, considering the fight they had last year and the fact that much of the Green Bay Packers secondary will be devoting their energy toward newly acquired Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, making it all the more important that Shields be able to handle Hester one-on-one.
Hester is the most feared return man in the game with 12 career punt returns for touchdowns and 5 career kick returns for touchdowns. He was drafted as a cornerback/return man, but in his sophomore season in the NFL, the Bears decided he was too dangerous of a weapon not to utilize on offense and started mixing him in at wide receiver.
At 5'10" and 185 pounds, Hester is short for a wide receiver and he's not likely to ever make the Pro Bowl for his play at that position. But the Bears' plan to get him more touches in order to have a greater impact on the game has proven somewhat successful. It has added another weapon to their passing game, which is not overflowing with talent like Green Bay's. And he certainly gives opposing defenses something to lose sleep over with his speed, which is why not just anyone can cover him. For example, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams' recorded 40 times of 4.44 and 4.59 respectively are both well above Hester's 4.27. That's why it's so important to have someone like Shields, who ran a 4.25 40-yard dash before he was drafted, on the team when you're in the same division as Hester.
As far as physical attributes, Shields (5'11", 184 pounds) is pretty much the same exact size as Hester, so there are no real advantages there. Shields has youth on his side in terms of his physical gifts, but with that comes inexperience. Shields, 24, is entering his third year in the league, while Hester, 29, is entering his seventh.
Shields came in as a rookie in 2010 and got two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game, including one that put the game away. He also had a solid four interceptions last year, even if some fans felt his play left something to be desired. Hester's production at wide receiver has actually been on the decline since 2009, when he gained 757 yards off of 57 receptions. Last year he only had 369 yards and 26 receptions.
But the Bears aren't worried about turning Hester into a 1,000-yard receiver. They are just looking for the occasional home run to keep opposing defenses on their toes. It's Shields' job to make sure Hester doesn't make offensive plays that resemble his special teams highlights.