SEATTLE — Chris Conte wasted little time announcing his return to the Bears secondary since the end of last season. And he did it under some specific added pressure, staving off a Seattle Seahawks touchdown in the third quarter of the Bears' Friday-night loss, for one play anyhow.
But Conte’s hope at regaining his starting job at free safety took a sharp blow in the third quarter when he left the game with a concussion, something that could put his future in Chicago back at some roster risk.
With the Seahawks intent on unleashing running backs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin to go with elusive quarterback Russell Wilson, the Bears went in expected to make heavy use of a single-high safety alignment to put a strong safety in the box to fortify against the Seattle ground offense.
That alignment leaves the free safety solo in the deep middle, which is exactly where Conte was placed in his first playing time since the 2013 season ended with a touchdown pass to Green Bay’s Randall Cobb in Conte’s area of responsibility. Conte responded with a perfectly timed hit to knock a pass loose from Seattle tight end Luke Wilson in the end zone.
The Seahawks scored one play later on a pass on which Conte’s chief competition, Danny McCray, appeared late closing to provide deep help for cornerback Charles Tillman. But for Conte, it was an impressive start.
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It was not all impressive for Conte, however. He failed to make a tackle on a Seattle screen pass in the third quarter, was on all fours for a few moments before getting up and took his helmet off as he made his way slowly to the sideline. He was then out of the game with what was diagnosed as a concussion.
The evening represented the most significant evaluation yet at the free-safety position, of how Conte and McCray compare in a position still declared “wide open” by defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Conte was inserted at free safety to start the second quarter, paired with Ryan Mundy, who has all but locked up the strong safety job. While starters typically play most or all of the first half, coaches wanted to work Conte in while the Seattle starters were still involved. Conte had not played since the disastrous fourth-quarter touchdown play against the Packers but was targeted for work in the second quarter rather than the second half.
Mundy was forced to leave the game in the second quarter with a head laceration, sending Adrian Wilson in with the No. 1 defense along with Conte.