(CBS) Bears coach Marc Trestman on Wednesday expressed his support for the oft-criticized Chris Conte, saying the three-year veteran will have the opportunity to compete at safety this season.

“I like Chris because I know he loves football and I know he wants to work to be a good player,” Trestman told the Chicago Tribune. “I know he is a good teammate. I watched him during the season. We’re going to do everything we can to help him get back on his feet, so to speak, and move forward. Players have done it before. He’s going to be in a position to compete for a position as safety on our football team. We’re going to give him the opportunity to do that.”

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Conte was a lightning rod for criticism after an inconsistent 2013 season in which he at times displayed some poor tackling and blew a late-game coverage assignment in a season-ending loss to the Packers that kept the Bears out of the playoffs. Nevertheless, Trestman said Conte remains in the mix, and he views him as an important cog.

The Bears signed veteran safety Ryan Mundy in free agency, and he figures to fill Major Wright’s starting slot and/or provide more competition. Chicago also will likely use a draft pick on a safety, perhaps as high as its first-round pick at No. 14 overall.

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“Right now, I think he is in a position where he is confident and willing to move forward, that he knows he didn’t play at the level he needs to play to be a starter in the National Football League, but he has the ability to be a starter,” Trestman told the Tribune. “As I said to him, I have seen him on tape be a physical tackler. I have seen him on tape close and run to the football with speed. I have seen him on tape do the right things. We saw it in ’12 and we didn’t see it as much in ’13 and we want to get him to a place where he can be more consistent.


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