By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Prince Amukamara signed with the Bears eager to prove his place as a shutdown cornerback and earn a home in Chicago. Two games into his one-year deal, he hasn’t seen the field.
Hampered by an ankle sprain since the third preseason game, Amukamara will make his Bears debut Sunday. He’s ready for this new opportunity after watching Chicago start 0-2 and also hopeful to showcase his abilities after experiencing disappointment in a couple regards. Amukamara has played just one full season in his six-year career and was shut out of the interception log last season with the Jaguars.
“I’m excited for this week to be my debut,” Amukamara said Thursday at Halas Hall. “It’s been definitely frustrating, especially with my career so far and just putting it out there, not being able to play all 16 (games), but can’t really worry about that. Have to worry about the 14 ahead of me and do the best I can to help this team out.”
It remains to be seen whether Amukamara will start. Kyle Fuller, the team’s 2014 first-round pick, has managed well in Amukamara’s absence the last two weeks. Most importantly, Fuller has been healthy after missing the entire 2016 season. So the particular rotation remains unclear.
“I like where he’s at,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Fuller. “I like the direction he’s heading in. I think he’s playing better than he played in ’15. Has he been perfect? No. But I like where’s at. We’ll see how it shakes down with him and Prince and how that works this week based upon on how Prince does throughout the week.”
Added Bears coach John Fox: “I can’t see how that goes right now. It looks like (Amukamara is) in pretty good shape. We’ll make all those decisions an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.”
Prior to his injury, Amukamara was looking strong in the offseason program and training camp. He was active around the football and showing the kind of knack that general manager Ryan Pace envisioned for a defense that was dead last takeaways a season ago.
Then came the ankle injury, which put him on the sidelines.
“Well, I would hope my hands still work,” Amukamara joked. “And that’s what practice is for, getting the same looks, getting my body doing those same movements and getting back used to the whole routing. Ben (Roethlisberger) is not a guy that throws a lot of picks, and we’re going to have to work for ours up there.”
If the opportunity for a key role comes, Amukamara will be playing catch-up after missing two weeks of work. He was allowed to walk from Jacksonville after an unfulfilling season and was sent into free agency, where a one-year deal in Chicago was the best he could muster.
Amukamara is out to prove he can be a top cornerback in this league. The personal motivation is at least present.
“I would say for now that’s probably in the back of my mind, if I’m going to be authentic,” he said. “I feel like if I’m just out there playing I feel like everything is going to take care of itself.”