BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – He has been something of a forgotten figure with all of the shuffling and evaluating going on at the far back end of the Bears defense. But on Sunday, after months of rehabbing back from offseason shoulder surgery, Chris Conte was back.
Conte has been the Bears’ starting free safety for most of the last 2-1/2 seasons, paired most often with Major Wright, who is now with Lovie Smith and Tampa Bay. On Sunday Conte was in tandem with Adrian Wilson and the two were rotated in with the No. 1 defense, alternated with Danny McCray and Ryan Mundy, the starters last Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It feels the same, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that I’m out there with,” Conte said, adding with a smile, “and it’s fun to go out there and play with a guy [Wilson] that’s been to [five] Pro Bowls.”
Conte has been doing conditioning but he was visibly fatigued after he and a number of teammates from both offense and defense ran sprints after practice.
He is more than aware of the venom directed at him after the final-game debacles in the loss to Green Bay in game 16. And the Bears used a fourth-round draft choice on a free safety in Brock Vereen.
“I mean, I got a list of a lot of things I want to do and a lot of people I want to prove wrong,” Conte said. “There’s a lot of goals I have, a lot of things I’m looking forward to, but I’m taking it one day at a time.”
So for that matter is cornerback Tim Jennings, also returning from an injury (quad) that caused him to miss a week of practice and the Philadelphia game. Jennings is not among those whom Conte needs to prove anything to.
“With Chris, the talent is there,” Jennings said. “I like his athletic ability, man. Chris can get from hash to hash. He knows what he’s supposed to do. I like everything he brings to the defense. He’s a physical guy; he can make tackles in the open field. He’s just raw talent. And I just like what he brings to it and he can get hash to hash.
“Me and Chris have been out here, even when we can’t practice. I can tell he’s hungry to get back out here. And it showed out here.”