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Chris Conte out 4-5 months after shoulder surgery

Updated: April 3, 2014 11:44PM

Even as the Bears added three safeties to their roster this offseason, management maintained that its goal was for Chris Conte to compete to keep his starting job in training camp.

That just got more complicated.

Conte had surgery on his right shoulder late last month, sidelining him for four to five months — ostensibly, until the start of training camp.

His shoulder was dislocated in 2012 and grew worse over the last two seasons. Conte tried to rehabilitate it this offseason but chose to stabilize the shoulder with surgery when that proved ineffective.

The team has signed safeties Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray in the last month and kept safety Craig Steltz on a one-year deal.

It seems increasingly likely that the Bears will select a safety high in the draft in May, too, be it to compete with Conte at free safety or to fill the strong-safety void after Major Wright’s departure.

With the pass rush bolstered via free agency, the Bears could afford to select first-round talents Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor, be it at No. 14 or, if they trade down, later in the round.

The Bears believe Conte can improve from last season. His coverage error led to Aaron Rodgers’ 48-yard touchdown pass in the last minute of the playoffs-or-bust season finale.

General manager Phil Emery said at the NFL Scouting Combine that his vision was for Conte to compete and win the job.

At the NFL owners meetings last week, coach Marc Trestman said Conte didn’t “play at the level he needs to be a starter.”

But Trestman said he has the ability to be a starter. He has seen Conte on tape be a physical tackler, run fast to the ball and make the right decisions.

“We saw it in ’12 and we didn’t see it much in ’13,” Trestman said. “And we want to get him to a place where he can be more consistent.”

Britton re-signs

The “Monster Tight End” is returning to the Midway.

The Bears re-signed swing tackle Eben Britton to a one-year pact Thursday, keeping the team’s top reserve offensive lineman and “monster,” or blocking tight end.

Through the first 16 weeks in 2013, the 6-6, 308-pounder played 191 snaps at tight end, mostly on rushing downs, to help preserve Martellus Bennett’s shoulder.

In Week 17, he replaced right tackle Jordan Mills when the rookie broke his foot on the first drive.

The 26-year-old, who joined the Bears on a one-year deal last season, has started 34 career games — 23 at right tackle, seven at left guard and four at the monster spot.

Lynch to work out

Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch will work out for the Bears on April 18 as a quarterback, according to multiple reports.


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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