Chris Conte confident despite crash course with Bears
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com August 10, 2011 10:48PM
Johnny Knox, listed behind Roy Williams on the depth chart, makes a catch against Charles Tillman during drills. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: October 3, 2011 12:36PM
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Destiny brought the Bears to FieldTurf on Wednesday night.
A power failure knocked out the lights about 75 minutes into practice at Olivet Nazarene University. After waiting 40 minutes for ComEd to solve the problem, they took buses and golf carts to nearby Bradley-Bourbonnais High School, where they concluded practice on the school’s pristine FieldTurf surface.
‘‘It’s nice,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said. ‘‘It’s something we could get used to.’’
Bears coach Lovie Smith didn’t seem to mind — the interruption or the FieldTurf.
‘‘Every once in a while things like this happen,’’ Smith said. ‘‘But the players came over, got a chance to work on FieldTurf. It was a good, lively practice. We got better tonight. That’s what we wanted to do.’’
It was the third time in the last six days that the Bears’ practice routine was altered. Last Friday, they moved from Soldier Field to Olivet Nazarene because of poor field conditions. On Monday, practice was cut short because of a storm.
‘‘It’s not all bad,’’ Smith said. ‘‘You want to put guys in different situations. As I said earlier, we’re going to London. We’ll have to get out of the routine. But eventually it’s good to go through that and then to see that we got a normal-sized field and we’re able to get the same work that we would have gotten in over there.’’
It was a great night for the second-team defense, which had five interceptions — two by safety Craig Steltz and one each by rookie safeties Anthony Walters and Winston Venable and cornerback Corey Graham. Another rookie safety, third-round draft pick Chris Conte, dropped a sure pick off a deflection.
But it wasn’t such a great night for backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, who threw all five interceptions.
‘‘Great night for the Bears — that’s the only way you can look at it,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We do have a good defense. But offensively, we have to protect the ball.’’
Wide receiver Sam Hurd, who has been making an impact in an attempt to be more than a special-teams player, suffered an ankle injury at Bradley-Bourbonnais but was back on his feet after getting it iced.
‘‘He should be good to go,’’ Smith said.
Defensive tackle Anthony Adams, who had a boot on his left leg, missed a third day of practice with a calf injury. He wasn’t concerned it would keep him out for long.
Initial depth chart
There were no big surprises when the Bears released their first ‘‘unofficial’’ depth chart. At wide receiver, Roy Williams is ahead of Johnny Knox, and Devin Hester is ahead of Earl Bennett.
‘‘Guys like Johnny just need to learn to be consistent,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. ‘‘He certainly has the ability. He just is still learning to play, adjust and do the things we ask him to do.”
Right tackle Gabe Carimi is the only rookie starter. Four rookies are second-team: free safety Conte (behind Major Wright), right tackle Josh Davis (behind Carimi), strong-side linebacker J.T. Thomas (behind Nick Roach) and middle linebacker Dom DeCicco (behind Brian Urlacher). Davis and DeCicco are undrafted.
Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, an undrafted rookie from Ohio State who has been taking first-team reps in practice, is No. 3 behind Williams and Knox. But he’s also pushing Bennett for playing time in the slot.
“We’re very pleased with his progress,’’ Martz said. ‘‘With the things we continue to add, he’s [made] very few mistakes. He’s got a chance.”