LAKE FOREST, IL - JUNE 12: Chris Conte #47 of the Chicago Bears works against Brandon Venson #85 during a minicamp practice at Halas Hall on June 12, 2012 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
If the Bears want to get back to winning ways, they'll need their stars to play their best. They'll also need a few stars to break out, as well. Few players are better poised to do that than Chris Conte.
Though just a rookie in 2011, the third-round draft pick stood out with 30 tackles and an interception. He showed an understanding of the Bears defense as well as great promise for the future. He finished the season on the injured reserve because of a foot and ankle injury, but now he's had the benefit of a full off-season to prepare.
"It's crazy," he said. "I've been living out here for a year. I know this place. Coming to Bourbonnais (last July) I had never even seen Illinois before. But it was a fun experience. It's just nice being able to feel much more comfortable, knowing the guys, knowing what to expect."
Because of last year's lockout, Conte didn't get to spend the summer with defensive coaches and players. This year, he has already devoted plenty of time to improving with the Bears defense. Expect to hear his name called often in 2012.