LAKE FOREST – At one point, the Bears branded Devin Hester a No. 1 wide receiver.
These days, Hester isn’t even a No. 3, 4 or 5 receiver.
Bears coach Marc Trestman said Tuesday that Hester would practice solely on special teams as a kick returner. Hester watched from the sidelines while the offense practiced repetitions at the Walter Payton Center during the first day of voluntary minicamp.
“Devin is going to focus on being our returner,” Trestman said. “He’s got to be the returner for him to be there. And once that’s locked into place, which we expect that it will, then we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Hester’s production as a receiver slipped in each of the past four seasons, and he threatened to retire after Lovie Smith was fired at the end of last season. Hester, who will turn 31 years old next season, caught 23 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown in 2012 but went the final three weeks of the season without a reception.
Trestman said Hester would spend his time during practice with special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis and his assistants. Hester is the NFL’s all-time record holder with 17 combined kick-return touchdowns, including 12 punt returns and five kickoff returns.
“He’ll be spending time totally focused in on being the best returner in the National Football League,” Trestman said.
New guy: The Bears added another possible protector for Jay Cutler by signing offensive lineman Eben Britton to a one-year contract Tuesday.
Britton, 25, spent the past four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars after they selected him out of Arizona in the second round (No. 39 overall) of the 2009 NFL draft. He started five games at left guard last season and has made 30 career starts, including 23 starts at right tackle and seven starts at left guard.
Britton appeared in four games in 2011 and seven games in 2010.
Trading places: Bears general manager Phil Emery reiterated his willingness to trade down from the No. 20 overall pick if the situation made sense for the team.
The Bears have five selections in this year’s draft and could add to that total via trade. Emery said he would compile three lists of players: some that he could trade up to acquire, some that he could select at No. 20, and some that he could acquire despite a trade down.
“We’ve already had a couple of teams that have approached us [about trading picks],” Emery said. “I approached a couple during the owners meetings. There are talks. They’re back and forth. They’re kicking things around.
“It doesn’t get serious until you get close to the pick. … It gets real serious when you’re on the clock. But certainly we’ve had discussions and we’ll see how it goes.”
Meet and greet: Emery said that he met with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, although he declined to go into specifics about what the two of them discussed.
“I will tell you that I found Manti to be a very good person, a very squared-away guy,” Emery said. “I certainly enjoyed the meeting.”
Te’o could be available for the Bears to draft at No. 20, although many draft experts peg Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree as a more athletic player and a better fit for the Bears.
Bears bits: Gabe Carimi would compete with free-agent addition Matt Slauson for playing time at guard instead of joining the competition for playing time at tackle, Trestman said. … Brandon Marshall (hip) and Robbie Gould (calf) sat out Tuesday.