In his first game eligible to return from the short-season injured reserve, the Atlanta Falcons activated Devin Hester and placed him on the 53-man roster Friday. In a corresponding move, the Falcons also place wide receiver Leonard Hankerson on injured reserve, as he’s missed three of the last four games with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, Hester had missed all 11 games this season with a nagging toe injury he suffered during the preseason. With Hester out, the Falcons have utilized Eric Weems in their return game and given Hankerson and rookie Justin Hardy reps at wide receiver.
Last season, Hester led the NFL in punt return average and kick return yards in 2014 and set the NFL record for return touchdowns in a career.
A fifth-year veteran who played his first four season in Washington, Hankerson was fourth on the team in receiving yards (327) behind Julio Jones, Jacob Tamme and Devonta Freeman. He had 26 catches and three touchdowns to go along with those 327 receiving yards in just eight games.
At one point during the early portion of the season as Atlanta’s offense had been rolling, Hankerson recorded six or more catches with 77 or more receiving yards and a touchdown in two out of three games. With Hester back in and Hankerson out, expect Hester to see reps both as a return specialist and as a wide receiver as the Falcons look to reverse a four-game losing streak.