Wilson in for Mundy as Bears’ safety tests continue
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter August 1, 2014 9:56PM
Updated: September 3, 2014 6:16AM
BOURBONNAIS — Ryan Mundy, stepping off the field Thursday after another go in a seemingly endless streak of playing first-team strong safety, was asked if he felt comfortable. The Bears were cycling in new starters, but at free safety, not strong.
‘‘No,’’ Mundy said flatly. ‘‘That’s motivation. Because if it can happen to someone else in the room, it can happen to me.’’
Less than 24 hours later, he was proven right.
The Bears moved Mundy to the second team for practice Friday, opting to play five-time Pro Bowl pick Adrian Wilson with the starting group.
It was the latest round of tinkering in the Bears’ most dire position group. In one week of training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, they have used three starting safety combinations: Mundy and rookie Brock Vereen, Mundy and Danny McCray — once considered strictly a special-teams contributor — and, on Friday, Wilson and McCray.
The most visible safety looms on the sideline: Chris Conte is still recovering from surgery in March on his right shoulder.
‘‘I’m just waiting for my opportunity,’’ the free safety told the Sun-Times. ‘‘All I can focus on is getting healthy and doing what the trainers have me doing. I’m doing everything I can.’’
Whether that’s enough to be ready for the season opener is an open question. General manager Phil Emery said the Bears anticipate Conte’s return during the preseason but not until at least after next Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
‘‘For me, I’m just taking my time and getting with the coaches in the film room,’’ Conte said. ‘‘I can do all the mental aspect of the game and learn as much as I can. It’s just a timetable of coming back. They have that timed out.’’
After Conte’s return, coaches will search for the right starting combination and for four or five safeties to make the team. That will become clearer once preseason games begin; perhaps no position is harder to judge in practices without tackling.
While coach Marc Trestman has called the free and strong positions ‘‘essentially interchangeable,’’ Wilson is considered a strong safety. Mundy said strong safety is ‘‘probably a natural fit for me,’’ too.
‘‘You gotta be versatile, and you have to be able to do both no matter what system you play in,’’ Mundy said. ‘‘In this day, it’s about passing the ball and getting guys open.’’
Trestman said the Bears will work Mundy at both positions, though he has yet to appear as a free safety in team drills. Trestman will leave the final decision to defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and defensive backs coach Jon Hoke.
Wilson declined comment Friday — ‘‘I don’t do interviews,’’ he said, eight days after conducting his first interview as a Bear — but his play is speaking volumes after he missed last season with a heel injury.
‘‘I think what Adrian has done, he’s kind of worked himself back into playing football,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘And we’ve kind of just stood back and allowed him to acclimate himself on not only what’s going on in the classroom, but let him get his feet underneath him on the field. And he continues to get a little better each and every day.’’
Trestman said his staff ‘‘felt it was time to move him up there’’ for at least one day.
‘‘We’ll look at the tape and see how he did,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘And continue to move people around.’’
Don’t expect a decision soon.
‘‘The rationale is it’s an open competition,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We’re going to move people around, and you’re going to see that throughout training camp and the exhibition season.’’