The Chicago Bears announced yesterday that Chris Conte, the club's starting safety the past three seasons, will start training camp on the active physically unable to perform (PUP) list due to shoulder surgery in March.
Conte is coming off his worst NFL season and was already in a fight for his job. The time off won't help him prove he's still the best option for Chicago's defense.
The Bears used newcomers Ryan Mundy and Brock Vereen, the club's fourth-round pick, in the starting lineup during OTAs and minicamp. Yet shortly after the final veteran minicamp session, GM Phil Emery inked 13-year veteran Adrian Wilson. It was a move that slipped under the radar of most, yet it appears the 34-year-old will get a legitimate shot at earning a starting gig.
"That position’s wide open," Emery said yesterday. "If Adrian Wilson walks in here and he’s in football shape and, like the rest of them, stays healthy, he can claim the job."
Wilson missed all of 2013 due to a foot injury. It was originally reported as a torn Achilles but he said today those reports were erroneous.
“I had Haglund’s Deformity," Wilson said. "It was an [enlargement] of my heel bone. So I didn’t tear my Achilles or any of that. I don’t know where that came from.”
Wilson said his foot has healed and he's ready to prove wrong those who have written him off.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t healthy," said Wilson. "I’m a very prideful person. I take a lot of the critics that said I can’t play, that it was a terrible signing by the Bears and all this other stuff that’s being said, I use that as motivation for me."
Wilson's path to Chicago began in New England last year, where he was a big-name free-agent acquisition, before the injury put him on the shelf. He then rehabbed for months in Arizona and admitted the uncertainty of his future was difficult to handle.
"It was terrible. It was pretty bad," Wilson said. "I really can’t describe it right now because all the cameras are in my face, but the words that I want to use aren’t words that I can use on camera. It was pretty bad."
Once the foot was 100 percent, the Bears put Wilson through a private workout in June.
"We brought Adrian in for a workout and it was obvious he still has a very good burst, he still has a very good set of hands and he still wants to play football," Emery said.
Wilson said the workout proved he still has something left in the tank.
“[It showed] that I was ready to go," he said." Obviously I think I still have burst. I think I can still play. And if Mr. Emery thought that I couldn’t play or I thought that I couldn’t do any of that stuff he probably wouldn’t have signed me or had me after the workout. So I feel like I had a pretty good workout.”
"I don’t have any goals. I’m just going out there and competing with myself. I’m not competing with anybody," said Wilson. "There’s no challenge man. Football is football. I’m a guy who’s very prideful. I’m a little bit disappointed from last year and I just came here to play football.”
After missing all of the Bears offseason activities, Wilson is a step behind his teammates. Yet he said studying the playbook on his iPad will pay dividends over the next three weeks in Bourbonnais.
“Pretty much everybody on defense reached out. Tillman reached out. Briggs reached out. Jared Allen reached out. A lot of guys. And man, good thing they make iPads. Because I missed pretty much everything. So I got caught up with the iPad and I’m ready to roll.
"Every day [on the iPad]. For the people who know me, they know how obsessed I am with just learning the ins and outs of the defense.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.