BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Given the Bears' track record at safety the last eight seasons, first-team free safety Chris Conte understands why skeptics believe it's only a matter of time before another change is made at the position. In Conte's rookie season of 2011, the Bears used eight different starting combinations with five different players -- Conte, Major Wright, Chris Harris, Brandon Meriweather and Craig Steltz.
"I think the rest of the team is pretty solid, we have a lot of veteran players, but at the safety position we are pretty young," Conte said Friday. "It makes sense and it's understandable (why people question us at safety) but I think hopefully me and Major can come out and prove to everybody we deserve to be back there and do a great job. We get along well on and off the field and I think that ability to communicate helps out a lot."
The Bears used a third round pick on Conte who transitioned from cornerback to safety during his senior year at California. The club was so impressed by Conte's speed and athleticism, former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo remarked last summer he thought Conte was 'the most complete safety we've ever had'. As a rookie, Conte started nine games and recorded 47 tackles and one interception. He missed the final two games of the regular season after being placed on injured reserve with an ankle/foot injury.
However, Conte recovered from the injury in time to fully participate in the club's offseason program , which he did not have the luxury of attending last year due to the NFL lockout. The safety also spent the offseason adding a few pounds of muscle to his frame and expects to play this year at around 205 pounds as opposed to 2011 when his weight was under 200 pounds.
Besides staying healthy, Conte knows he must increase his interceptions and forced fumbles to remain in the starting lineup for the entire season.
"With Lovie, it's turnovers, being around the ball," Conte said. "If we can create turnovers we can help out our team a lot. I think as long as our safeties play well we can give us a chance to be a great team and win a Super Bowl. As long as we can get around the ball and have consistent play I think we'll do great."