(CBS) As much criticism that has been tossed the way of much-maligned Bears safety Chris Conte, just know this.
He hears most of it. He knows the stakes. He knows the Bears need him to be much, much better heading into a 2014 season with championship aspirations.
In an interview with the Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score, Conte opened up about his inconsistent 2013 season — which ended in a blown coverage assignment that allowed the Packers to score a game-winning touchdown at Soldier Field and prevent the Bears from making the playoffs — and added, “I can just move on.”
“The message for me was to be more consistent, to make the plays in front of me that I had the opportunity to make,” Conte said. “I mean, I dropped a lot of balls. I missed a lot of tackles. Whenever you do anything wrong or you don’t make the play, there’s room for improvement. For me, it’s just realizing that there’s a lot of room for me to grow. I guess they really wanted to push me to get better because, obviously, last year I wasn’t doing well enough. I don’t know what else to say really.”
Conte recently said he’s intent on proving his list of doubters wrong, a line that drew attention and one that stemmed from his 2014 ambitions. Conte’s in an open competition with four others to win one of the two safety spots that are unsettled. He played free safety most often last year.
“I’m not giving up on anything,” Conte said when asked about competing for a job. “It’s just motivation for me … There’s a lot of people that say what they want. Everybody has their opinion, so I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about getting better each day. People are going to say what they want to say about me. They obviously are continuing to do that, and it seems like a popular topic. But I can’t play into that. Every day, just show up and be consistent and have a good mindset going into every day.
“Nothing’s handed to me. I’m just out there competing every day with the guys we have out here. They obviously felt the need to bring in competition, and I think competition brings out the best in everyone. I love to compete. It’s just another opportunity to get better, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Conte had offseason shoulder surgery and just returned to practice at training camp last weekend, so he’s somewhat behind in his progress. His status for tomorrow’s preseason game against the Jaguars is still uncertain, but Conte says he feels good and is happy to have the chance to put 2013 behind him.
“Our defense didn’t play well enough last year, and the bottom line is I didn’t make plays,” Conte said. “There were a lot of games where I wasn’t happy with the way I played. I just want to get better, and I think the whole defense wants to get better. And I feel like I can be a great player, and I think the coaches believe in me. So really, last year’s in the past, and I have to move on. I can forget about it, but at the end of the day, it’s always going to be there and you’ll always be reminded about it, but what am I going to do about it? I can just move on and get better. That’s all that really matters.”