It was a different position at a different level, but kick returner Micheal Spurlock knows what it’s like to replace a legend.

“I was supposed to replace Eli Manning in college,” Spurlock said. “I mean, he was the first overall pick. You don’t try to replace him. You just do your job and try your best to put your team in good position.”

For Spurlock, putting the Bears in the best position doesn’t involve calling plays or breaking huddles. He’s one of several players vying to replace Devin Hester. And Spurlock is “the first one at bat right now,” as special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis put it, after Eric Weems was cut.

Hester’s unceremonious departure has cast a shadow over the group.

“A lot of people are like, You’ve got to replace Hester,” Spurlock said. “That’s where the problem lies. Everybody wants you to replace him. You’re not going to replace him. The guy is probably a Hall of Fame kick returner.”

Rule changes have diminished the overall value of returners, but a competent one can’t hurt. Hester provided coach Marc Trestman’s offense with good field position at times last season, averaging 27.6 yards on kick returns (sixth-best in the NFL) and 14.2 yards on punts (third-best).