Bears Bring Aboard Punt Return Competition for Dante Pettis

Former Bears return man DeAndre Carter has been brought back to Chicago for receiver depth and return abilities.
DeAndre Carter picks up yards after a reception against Green Bay last year. The Bears have brought him back to Chicago as receiver depth and return man.
DeAndre Carter picks up yards after a reception against Green Bay last year. The Bears have brought him back to Chicago as receiver depth and return man. / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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The Bears sought to stabilize their punt return game by signing back Dante Pettis during the offseason after he spent all of 2023 out due to a preseason neck injury.

Pettis spent part of the Bears' offseason work nursing an unspecified injury, so perhaps its not surprising they have an interest in bringing back another return man who once played for them.

Bleacher Report NFL insider Jordan Schultz reported the Bears are signing DeAndre Carter, the journeyman returner who returned four punts for them in 2020. Carter was claimed off waivers by the Bears during the 2020 season and after making one return went on the COVID-19 list for two weeks. He returned, made three returns and then was a free agent again after the season.

Carter has had moderate success as a return man overall. He has a 9.8-yard return average on punt returns. In 2022 with the Chargers he hit a career-high average of 11.7 yards. Last year he averaged 9.7 yards for the Raiders.

Carter also can return kicks, although his success here has been on a lesser basis. He averages 22.4 yards per kick return. He returned just 11 kicks for the Raiders last year and none for the Bears in 2020 when they still had Cordarrelle Patterson as their kick returner.

His only seasons as the full-time kick returner was in 2021 with Washington when he averaged 25.1 yards for 36 returns and in 2022 when he averaged 19.1 yards for 26 kick returns with the Chargers.

By comparison, Velus Jones Jr. has averaged 27.6 yards and 27.2 yards as the main Bears kick returner the last two seasons. Pettis averaged 9.1 yards on punt returns in 2022 and Trent Taylor 8.2 yards in 2023.

Carter had a rebirth of sorts to his career after leaving the Bears in 2020 as he became a greater contributor in the passing game.

With Washington in 2021, Carter had a career-high 24 catches in addition to returning kicks and punts. Then, in 2022, he was on the Chargers and made a career-high 46 receptions while also being their return man.

Last year, Carter went back almost solely to being used in the return game with the Raiders as he had four receptions for 39 yards.

Carter has been with six teams in seven NFL seasons.

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.