The Chicago Bears were a walking injury ward last season, with players from Lance Briggs to Charles Tillman all missing significant amounts of time. As a result, their defense was a horror show, allowing more yards and points than they ever had in franchise history.
Fortunately for the team, they will be close to full strength on Sunday when they take on the Buffalo Bills in the season opener, as all of their new acquisitions on the defensive side of the ball will be in the lineup. Ryan Mundy had 15 stitches removed from his head after a nasty gash opened up against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 of the preseason, and Jared Allen will be good to go after sitting out several contests with a bruised shoulder.
On Thursday, another player joined that group, as safety Chris Conte was cleared to return from the concussion he suffered in that Seahawks game. While the final determination hasn’t been made yet on whether Conte or Danny McCray will start at the free safety position (Mundy is all but assured of starting at strong safety), it does appear that the team will be adopting an interesting strategy at the position regardless of who is on the field for the first snap:
If you’ll recall, before training camp even started head coach Marc Trestman said that the team viewed the free and strong safety positions as interchangeable, but throughout camp it was McCray and Mundy starting at the positions. Adrian Wilson had been brought in to provide some competition for a starting job, but he was ultimately cut after health concerns continued to dog him. Rookie Brock Vereen also had some first team reps in mini-camp, but he seems to be relegated to back-up duty exclusively heading into the start of the campaign.
While Conte is cleared for the game, it’s pretty obvious that the Bears don’t trust him to take all of the snaps at free safety. He only played in one half of one preseason game, and he missed a huge chunk of training camp while still recovering from his shoulder injury. Those factors are going to put a limit on him, but it will be interesting to see just how many plays he’s actually on the field for.