BOURBONNAIS – As Chris Conte works to regain any confidence lost after last season, he can look to the support from his head coach.
“He’s back because we want him back,” Marc Trestman said after Sunday’s practice, Conte’s first this offseason. “We’ve seen him play at a high level and we’re hoping he can get back to that again.”
Conte, who had shoulder surgery this offseason, got right into the mix when the Bears opened team drills. He got a rep with the second team, alongside Adrian Wilson. The Bears will bring him along at a smart pace, but it’s a good sign that Conte got in right off the bat.
When asked if his shoulder affected his play last season, Conte was quick to explain what his mentality is going forward.
“I’m not even thinking about last season. I’m thinking about this year. So I don’t even know what happened last season,” he said.
Conte said he did “a lot of soul searching” this past offseason, likely in an effort to forget the 2013 campaign.
“A lot of time focusing on myself physically and mentally,” he said. “It was a good time for me to get better in a lot of different areas. Hopefully, I’m a better football person and a better football player.”
The Bears chose not to re-sign his former teammate, Major Wright, but have made it abundantly clear Conte will get a chance to start, potentially turn around a career that took a dive in 2013 and in the best possible scenario, earn a new contract.
“His speed, his experience.” Trestman said about what Conte brings to the safety competition. “I’ve seen him make plays at the line of scrimmage and I’ve seen him make plays at the perimeter. We’ve seen him do very good things, he’s got to do it consistently.
“… Certainly the athleticism is there to compete with anybody in the back end.”
“I like his athletic ability, man. Chris can get from hash to hash,” Tim Jennings said. “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.”
As positive as Trestman and others will be about Conte, he knows he has work to do this preseason, and he was asked about the sense of redemption.
“I got a list of a lot of things I want to do and a lot of people I want to prove wrong,” he 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.”
Injury update: Jordan Mills (foot), Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Brian de la Puente (knee) missed practice. De la Puente is out for a couple weeks with a sprained MCL. Jared Allen and Craig Steltz returned to practice, along with Conte, Jennings and Martellus Bennett.