The Chicago Bears announced today that starting free safety Chris Conte underwent surgery on his shoulder on Mar. 26, and will be sidelined for four to five months. A source close to Conte called this procedure “long overdue,” giving credence to the thought that Conte was playing through an injury most of the 2013 season. Hopefully this injury is at least part of why Conte seemed to struggle much of last season, though he did still finish second on the team with 95 tackles and grabbed three interceptions while starting all 16 games.
The four to five month timetable for Conte’s return is somewhat inconvenient for him, as he is expected to have competition for his starting role from M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy and will be forced to miss the team’s entire offseason program. Currently, Conte is scheduled to make his return to the field near the end of July when the team reports to training camp.
When Conte returns to the team at 100 percent healthy, his knowledge of the game will undoubtedly give him a leg up on his competition. He has started 40 games over three years with the Bears, and even if he was unable to prove it with his play last season, he has more knowledge of this team and system than any of the free agents Phil Emery has brought in to compete with him.
The biggest obstacle for Conte will come in May, when the team will most likely pick up a safety in the early rounds of the NFL Draft. This past Tuesday, the team brought in former Washington State strong safety Deone Bucannon for a personal visit. The writing may be on the wall for Conte, though with no long term safeties signed at this point, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to play himself into a contract extension.
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