He is the only member of the starting secondary under contract for next year, the only one a good bet to be in place this time a year from now. But until last Sunday, Chris Conte’s present was perhaps in more question than his future.
Conte, by his own assessment, had struggled far too often - “Things just kind of haven’t gone my way,” he said - in his third season as the Bears’ starting free safety. So when he intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass against the Detroit Lions and added a diving pass-breakup to end a Lions drive plus another in the Chicago end zone, the personal significance was right there with the importance his plays had for the team.
“I needed it,” Conte admitted. “It’s about time. Hopefully I can build off of that and continue to make big plays. We have a lot of guys out and it's time for somebody to step up, so it’d be nice for me to step up to make plays and force turnovers.
“Now just getting back to practice and focusing on the little things, trying to get myself in better position… knowing that I can make those plays helps out a lot.”
Not all of the Detroit day went well. Conte was completely faked out to allow a Reggie Bush to go 39 yards instead of being stopped at 10.
“You have to put stuff like that out of your head or use it as a motivator. I think that kind of woke me up, like, ‘Dang, I can’t let that happen. I gotta go make a play now.’ It is something you can use for motivation but a lot of times it’s a play that just happens. But I just can’t let that happen, that’s all.”
Players and coaches may claim to neither read nor listen to what’s written and said about then. But Conte admitted that the criticism leveled at him through parts of the season’s first half got to him as did his play.
“But I learned to not even look at it, not even go on the Internet,” Conte said, laughing. “I don’t even have a computer anymore.”