Safety tandem of Chris Conte, Major Wright has Bears thriving
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com October 6, 2012 5:02PM
Bears safety Chris Conte celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL game last season at Wembley Stadium in London. | Streeter Lecka~Getty Images
Updated: November 8, 2012 12:11PM
There are more than game films, scouting reports and game plans to mull over when the Bears’ safeties gather for meetings at Halas Hall.
Everything and anything can be discussed.
‘‘Our relationship is something special,’’ Chris Conte said. ‘‘The way we talk in the meeting room with [safeties] coach [Gill] Byrd, we’re not always talking about football. We’re talking about life lessons and growing as a man. It’s helped us on the field just because we have this kind of relationship together.’’
If safety was a question mark for the Bears entering the season, the play of Conte and Major Wright has turned any doubts into an exclamation mark. All the numbers indicate good, if not great, things are in the works.
With Conte and Wright paired as the Bears’ starting safeties for 10 games (dating to last season), opposing quarterbacks have combined for a 65.9 passer rating and seven touchdown passes. The Bears, meanwhile, have 19 interceptions.
And while plenty of factors — from solid defensive-line play to star performances from cornerbacks and linebackers to effective game plans — also play into those numbers, it’s definitely not a coincidence that Conte and Wright have been in the lineup, either.
‘‘They’re just playing good football right now,’’ defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said.
What are they doing right? It sounds like a lot.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said they’re breaking on the ball and tackling well. Hoke and Byrd said the communication between Conte and Wright and the rest of the secondary has been noticeably better this season. Conte and Wright said it helps learning and growing with a similar player. Conte is in his second season; Wright is in his third.
‘‘The guys are young, [but] they’re growing up quick,’’ Byrd said. ‘‘Conte didn’t have an offseason with us last year because of the lockout, so he’s a lot better than he was. Major was playing two different positions, and now he’s just focusing on one. It’s been good.’’
An off-the-field friendship between Wright and Conte also is helping things along.
‘‘We don’t get beers, but we hang out off the field,’’ Wright said. ‘‘We call each other. ‘Chris, what do you have going on?’ We’ll link up and go from there, grab something to eat and just have fun. It’s not just on the field that you want to build that chemistry; you want to build it off the field.’’
‘‘We’re similar,’’ said Conte, who leads the Bears with 28 tackles. ‘‘We get along really well. We both want the same things. We both want to be great.’’
Coach Lovie Smith admitted the Bears had struggled at safety for some time, but he is happy with how Conte and Wright are progressing.
‘‘Our safeties have a chance to be pretty good players,’’ Smith said.
‘‘I don’t feel like we’re starting to see ourselves like any other safety tandem that has come through,’’ said Wright, who already has three interceptions this season and is the first Bears safety since Mike Brown to have multiple interception returns for touchdowns in his career.
‘‘I don’t know about Mike Brown and his relationship with his other safety that he had, so I can’t go [forward] based off Mike Brown and who he had or anybody else who was here. With me and Chris, we’re just bonding and working on chemistry together. We just keep focusing and wanting to get better. He has tremendous talent, and with me working and getting better, the sky is the limit for us two.’’