Watching safety competition not sitting well with Chris Conte
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter May 27, 2014 10:27PM
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Updated: June 29, 2014 6:44AM
The competition for safety Chris Conte’s job has officially kicked off. And all he can do is wear a Bears floppy hat and watch from the sideline, occasionally batting down overthrown passes.
Conte’s desire to make up for all his frustrating breakdowns last season remains on hold after shoulder surgery.
“I’m always going to remember [last season], but it’s just something to grow from,” Conte said Tuesday after the Bears’ first day of organized team activities. “You’ve got to move on. You can’t worry about [stuff] for the rest of your life.”
There’s a new edge to Conte, one of the most approachable players at Halas Hall since his arrival. An offseason of ridicule — particularly harsh and unfair criticism from fans on social media — seems to have hardened him.
The 2013 season wasn’t a good one for Conte. He knows that. His blown coverage against the Green Bay Packers cost the Bears a playoff berth.
But it wasn’t a good season for the entire defense. That’s why the Bears are looking at several possible new starters in 2014 as well as coordinator Mel Tucker’s changes in scheme.
The Bears have maintained their faith in Conte. General manager Phil Emery said at the NFL combine that he hopes to be talking to Conte about an extension after a positive 2014 season. Coach Marc Trestman said at the NFL owners meetings that Conte proved he can be a starter during the 2012 season. The Bears also waited until the fourth round to draft a safety.
But all that trust only goes so far.
“I really don’t need support from anybody,” Conte said. “It comes down to myself. It’s not about support. It’s about me taking care of stuff myself. Nobody is going to take care of you in this league. It’s about becoming a man and taking responsibility for things and moving on.”
Right now, that means rehabbing his right shoulder. Conte remains on track to return during training camp after surgery for what he said was an “ongoing injury” that he carried all of last season.
“It’s a thing I tried to rehab, and it’s something I had an issue with,” Conte said. “For me to play at 100 percent, I had to get it done.”
So Conte sits while former Packer M.D. Jennings and rookie Brock Vereen get significant repetitions at free safety.
It’s a maddening process, not being able to compete for a spot that he has held the last two seasons. With 40 career starts, Conte is the Bears’ most experienced safety.
In the last year of his rookie deal, Conte sounds hell-bent to prove he’s also the Bears’ best safety.
“They can bring whoever they want to bring in,” Conte said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to be the best player that I can be and focus on myself, and that starts with rehab, that starts in the film room. It starts with everything.”