Updated: October 18, 2011 5:47PM
Bears rookie safety Chris Conte started his first NFL game Sunday night, helping the Bears defeat the Minnesota Vikings 39-10. Conte talks about his first NFL start, from being told during the week to his final assessment.
It was just a regular Tuesday. I came into special teams, and noticed that I wasn’t on any special teams anymore. I didn’t really understand what was going on. And then Toub, the special-teams coach, was like, “I think we might leave you on punt.” I thought, Did I mess up in the game? What happened? He’s like, “You don’t even know, do you.” “No, I don’t.” (Laughs.) And he’s like, “You’ll find out in a little bit.” After that, they told me I was going to be playing. They’re like, “You’re gonna get an opportunity. You’re gonna get to start. Just go out there and do what you do and make a name for yourself.”
Definitely had some jitters. Was nervous. But I think a lot of times that prepares you for your job and what you have to do. I think I came in, executed, and yeah — go from there. Learn from the game and come back next week and be better.
I got announced for special teams a couple weeks ago. That was the first time. It’s great being recognized and coming out there. It gets you in the mind-set. You’re excited, you’re juiced up, you’re amped, you’re ready to go out there and play. There’s nerves, and a whole lot of feelings. My family’s here. My brother. To be able to go out there and be on national TV, it’s a great experience. I really thought it was a great state for me to have my first start.
I can’t remember ever seeing a defense with the safety so far back. Is it weird being 15 yards back playing defense?
(Laughs.) Well when they hand Adrian Peterson the ball, yeah, because that guy in open space is a monster. As a middle field safety, you’re pass first and run second. You’re getting depth, you’re playing the pass, and then you’re coming down and helping out on the run. If that thing breaks, it’s on the free safety. So you have to keep them from scoring the touchdown. You’re the last line of defense. Sometimes, seeing Adrian run free, it’s never a good feeling. You just got to get him down any way you can.
Is that in your head, like “Oh man, I don’t want to be in one of those highlight tapes?”
No, you can’t think like that. You’ve got to be confident, and sometimes you just hope he doesn’t break free. (Laughs.)
So first NFL start – how would you grade yourself?
I think I did pretty well. There are definitely things I have to improve on. I know the coaches are going to have things on tape they want me to improve on. I definitely made mistakes. But I feel pretty good about my first start. I haven’t been playing safety very long. My last year in college was really my first year playing safety, so this is really my second year. I still have tons to learn about the position, and I still have tons of room to grow and get better.
Jack M Silverstein is an oral historian covering Chicago sports. Follow him on twitter @ReadJack.