Tampa Bay safety Chris Conte is one of the most misunderstood Buccaneers on the roster. Unfairly compared to former Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli because of the physical resemblance, Conte hasn’t exactly been a fan favorite in Tampa Bay because of a reputation that followed him from his days in Chicago. But his pick-six against the Bears last year was the catalyst for a defensive turnaround that fueled the Bucs to a 6-2 finish and a 9-7 record. Tampa Bay fans began to really appreciate Conte’s play when his end zone interception at Kansas City in the fourth quarter led to Tampa Bay’s comeback win at Arrowhead.
Conte was re-signed to a two-year deal in the offseason as the Bucs chose him over Bradley McDougald, who signed with Seattle in free agency. While newcomers J.J. Wilcox and Justin Evans, the team’s second-round pick, will provide competition, Conte enters training camp as the starting free safety next to strong safety Keith Tandy, who was tied for the lead in interceptions with four. Now it’s up to Conte to keep the rookie and the former Dallas Cowboy at bay.
It’s been a busy this offseason as Conte and his girlfriend, former Buccaneers Cheerleader Stephanie Everett, are expecting a child and he bought a house in Tampa where they plan to call home after his football career is over. But with the offseason in the books and training camp is here, follow Conte on his journey to improve as a player, keep his starting job and help get the Bucs into the playoffs in his Training Camp Diary on PewterReport.com.
YOU SEE THE FINISH LINE IN CAMP
By Chris Conte as told to Mark Cook
You see the finish line in camp. You have one more big game. Usually when you have a game you start to taper it down, but the fact that it is still camp, you have to rev it up and bring that energy every day to practice because there is a lot we still need to get done. It’s not the same as a regular week, as if we are playing a regular season opponent, but it kind of feels that way. It is definitely a grind with the long days and long hours. Guys are out of the hotel and back at home. You have your outside life with girlfriends, wives, and kids that start to be distractions, but you have to focus on the every day. You aren’t getting home till about 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. and you have to be up for meetings in the morning. They are long days and there is a lot going on. It’s a little bit more difficult than it is when we are at the team hotel and in camp on a more set schedule.
I think Dirk Koetter has become more comfortable in his position. I know that being an offensive coordinator, he still wants to be involved in the offense. That’s a balancing act between how much time he can spend with administrative things and being in the meeting rooms with all the guys. As a player you don’t really know all the things that are on his plate. I’m sure it’s a load. I’m sure it’s a balancing act, but as time goes on I’m sure he is able to figure out how to balance those things better. It seems like he has found a groove and is very comfortable in the role he has now. You see him as a leader the way he addresses the team. It really feels like he is in a spot where he knows what he is doing.
He is up front with everyone. He is not going to bullshit anybody. That is all you can ask for from somebody in a leadership position – to tell you how it is, be up front with you, and be willing to listen to you. He respects everyone’s opinion, but that doesn’t mean it is going to change his opinion. He at least respects everyone’s opinion and takes it into consideration. He is going to treat everyone like a man and is not going to bullshit you. That is all you can really ask for in a head coach, someone that respects the players and is fair to everyone. At the end of the day you want to go play for somebody that is like that. Someone that doesn’t play games and is up front with everyone. My moral values are on the same plane as his and it is easy to go fight for someone that you feel is on the same level as you.
As far as Hard Knocks, I’ve watched them. I recorded them and watched them. It is entertaining. I saw the Maurice Fleming scene like everyone else. I didn’t know what was going on with Fleming during the game. I don’t know if he let anyone know besides the couple guys that he was out there with. I don’t even know the extent of his injury right now. Obviously, it’s something that is going to keep him out for a while, so it must be pretty serious. For him to go out there and play through that shows the toughness and mental fortitude that kid has. He went out there and put his body on line. When he was hurting and kept on playing it just shows how important playing football and this dream of playing in the NFL is to him. He wasn’t going to let anything stop him from getting out there and finish off making a big play that helps the defense. It shows the type of person that kid is. He is a fighter. I think even Dirk said that he is going to get another opportunity and a kid like that is going to take full advantage of it. It is that important to him.
The battle for the last receiver spots will be a good battle. I think our whole receiving corps is very talented. It is tough because they are all talented in different ways. With some guys it’s speed or route running. It may come down to who can do the most on special teams. As a young player that is always kind of a key factor. What is your role on special teams and how much can you do on special teams? It’s not always about the receiver part, but how much you can contribute to the team in other ways. With all those guys it is going to be a fight for them. It is going to be tough. I don’t know how that is going to shape up. I wish the best of luck to all those guys.
There are going to be guys cut that would have made this team and contributed a couple years ago – 100 percent. That is what makes it tough. It is such a talented group. We just hope the guys we keep step up and the guys who get cut get an opportunity somewhere else.
Follow veteran Buccaneers free safety Chris Conte on Twitter at @WhiteUnicorn23.
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