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Injuries taking toll on the secondary

A.J. Jenkins Mark LeGree

A.J. Jenkins, Mark LeGree

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Updated: September 22, 2012 6:36AM



Bears coach Lovie Smith didn’t divulge any information on new safety Mark LeGree on Monday, but only because he had no information on him.

‘‘Don’t know a lot about him right now,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Tell me about him.’’

At the rate the Bears lose safeties, Smith soon might know more about LeGree than he ever thought he would. Still, Smith wasn’t about to sound any alarms after injuries to starter Chris Conte and rookie backup Brandon Hardin against the Washington Redskins on Saturday night precipitated the signing of the anonymous LeGree to replenish the roster.

Smith said Conte will be out for a while with a shoulder injury. Hardin, technically the second-team free safety behind Conte, is in a neck brace and is ‘‘day-to-day,’’ but more likely out indefinitely until doctors can determine the extent of his injuries.

‘‘I think it’s a part of football,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Those injuries [like Hardin’s] don’t really happen an awful lot. Chris Conte’s out for a while, but he’ll be back. His shoulder’s a little sore right now. In a physical game like that with big, tough running backs, that’s going to happen. I think we’re still in pretty good shape.’’

With Conte out, veteran Craig Steltz is expected to start with Major Wright at safety when the Bears play the New York Giants on Friday night at the Meadowlands.

That should be a seamless transition. Steltz, a fourth-round pick from LSU in 2008, has been a dependable and durable reserve in his four seasons. He started five games last season.

‘‘Whether you’re the starter or not, you prepare and practice like you are a starter because you never know when your opportunity is going to come,’’ Steltz said. ‘‘It could be Week 1. It could be the end of the season. It could be next year. Whatever your role is at the beginning of the year, things change throughout the year, and everybody knows that.’’

They should know it by now. Because of injuries and substandard play, the Bears had a different safety tandem in each of their first eight games last season.

The injuries to Conte and Hardin figure to provide an opportunity for Anthony Walters, a second-year safety who played in four games on special teams as a rookie and was on injured reserve for the final seven weeks of the season with a hamstring injury.

Walters, an undrafted free agent from Delaware in 2011, replaced Hardin against the Redskins. Like Conte and Hardin, he played cornerback in college. He’s looking forward to the opportunity against the defending Super Bowl champions.

‘‘I remember playing those guys last year, and they dominated us every quarter,’’ Walters said. ‘‘We haven’t forgotten about that. I haven’t forgotten about that. I go against our offense every day and we have some very talented guys here. It’ll be a good test, though.’’



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