Conte Feels Haters, Doubters & The New Vibe

August 8th, 2018

For his Wednesday column, the Sage of Tampa Bay sports sits down with the Bucs’ villainized safety


Through seven NFL seasons, they’ve been coming at Chris Conte in waves.

Draft picks, free agents, traded players … they have all joined a new roster with one purpose in mind — unseat Conte as a starting safety.

The plan isn’t working.

Conte is still standing, expected to open his fourth year in pewter as a starter when the Bucs open the regular season in New Orleans.

“Since I first came into this league, I’ve gotten zero respect from anyone in the National Football League,” he says. “Of course that’s fuel.”

Chris Conte feels the doubt, the hate.

During his four years in Chicago, Conte was a frequent target for frustrated fans. A receiver would get open deep against the Bears and Conte found himself blamed, whether or not it was his fault. He got ripped often on Twitter and some of the comments were particularly dark, threatening Conte with physical harm.

In Tampa, Conte remains a marked man. It hasn’t helped that Conte is still seeking his first postseason appearance as a pro.

“I haven’t made the playoffs yet, that’s true,” he says. “It’s frustrating. I also think it’s part of the reason why there’s a lot of negativity around me — because I’ve been on some not-so-great teams. I used to let a lot of that stuff bother me, but I’ve gotten older and I’m better about blocking that junk out and just doing my job.”

There have been some celebratory moments.

When Tampa Bay reeled off a five-game winning streak in 2016 that triggered playoff hopes, Conte was a major contributor. He kicked off the run with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Bears, head-butting Dirk Koetter when reaching the sidelines.

The following week, he secured a 19-17 win at Kansas City by picking off an Alex Smith pass in his own end zone in the fourth quarter.

“Everything was working together during that streak,” Conte says. “That’s what you need to be successful in the NFL. Stop the run, rush and cover. We’ve got a new defensive line now and it’s going to help us out a lot. Whenever you put pressure on the quarterback, it makes everyone’s job easier. We can be more disruptive at the line of scrimmage, throwing off timing. If we can get to the point when we’re anticipating plays, it’ll be a beautiful thing.”

Fellow safety Justin Evans impressed Conte as a rookie, tying for the team lead with three interceptions.

“He’s a great athlete, very rangy and a smart kid,” Conte says. “He’s going to be a great player. As we get better as a team, he’ll get better as a player.”

Mike Smith describes Conte as a cerebral safety. Despite generating skepticism among some fans, Conte has started 90 games in the NFL and shows no signs of backing off from a challenge at the age of 29.

Lovie Smith brought Conte to Tampa as an unrestricted free agent in 2015 after Smith learned to trust him in Chicago. Smith is long gone, but Conte’s still here, pining for his postseason debut.

“It’s a much different vibe around here from last year, when everybody was talking a lot,” he says. “It’s not a bad thing being an underdog, that’s for sure.”

He would know.

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. during football season. Also a TV star, see Ira now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

27 Responses to “Conte Feels Haters, Doubters & The New Vibe”

  1. D-Rome Says:

    I challenge anyone to be specific as to why Chris Conte is bad. He’s been one of Jason Licht’s best FA acquisitions.

  2. '74 Bucs fan Says:

    I am not a hater of Conte and have never understood the complaints against him. Every safety gets beat or is out of place from time to time. I have no complaints.

  3. Kobe Faker Says:

    “When you have the redheaded Matador Kwonie and his mini kwon, Justin Evans, wiffing on tackles, Conte will always be on the field to cleanup the mess”

    Kobe Faker

  4. Lamarcus Says:

    Conte is just a above average athlete but below average football player. It is what it is

  5. Big Country Says:

    I like Conte and I truly believe that the secondary will thrive with a beefed up D-line. I also really like Kieth Tandy and I am excited to see what they can do with more support and more talent around them.

  6. BucDan Says:

    I am always surprised by his size. Listed at 6’2″, but he seems to tower out on the field. Love the cerebral comment. He’s a quiet guy on the field that lets his play do the talking. Play which isn’t bad!

    I’ll put it this way: I can think of PLENTY of times last season thinking “WTF is TJ Ward doing!!??”

    I cannot say the same about Conte. Actually, the opposite.

  7. The Buc Realist Says:

    For every splash play he give you, He will also give you some “what is he doing” plays!!!!!! He really has not made a huge jump in his career as far as performance!!!! I don’t mind him being a backup on this team, But the “real” fans do if he is the starter!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just another example of this regime cleaning up after incompetent lovie for the below average players that he brought in and that the current regime have not had enough draft picks and time to develop to upgrade!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GO Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. AlabamaBucFan Says:

    Let’s see how he does with a great pass rush.



  10. BigMacAttack Says:

    Conte has made a few big plays. But that’s what he gets paid to do. He also gets burned because he’s not fast. His problem is consistency. Sure much of the secondary woes can be blamed on pass rush, but Conte often gets juked by good receivers. I hope the pass rush helps and I believe it will big time. I hope Conte has a good year, but when he gets burned, and he will, he’s going to feel the hate. Time for an upgrade and Licht thinks do too based on guys brought in to supplant him. I’m not a fan of his but he can win me over.

  11. JimmyJack Says:

    Just get Conte off the field on goalline sets please. It just makes you look bad as a coach.

  12. JimmyJack Says:

    Good point BigMac. If I remember right Conte wasn’t even starting game 1 last year it was Ward and Evans.

    Maybe fans should save more hate for Ward who wasn’t good enough to keep his job over Conte.

  13. D-Rome Says:

    Just another example of this regime cleaning up after incompetent lovie for the below average players that he brought in and that the current regime have not had enough draft picks and time to develop to upgrade

    Realist, it’s not too late to take your daily meds. Clearly you forgot to take them this morning.

    There are only two FA players brought in by **Jason Licht** that are hold overs from when Lovie Smith was here. That’s Evan Smith and Chris Conte. Every FA player brought in by Jason Licht in 2014 and 2015, apart from those two, are no longer here and haven’t been here for a long time.

    So you mean to tell us that Jason Licht is still hamstrung over a single player because of a coach that last coached in 2015? You are suggesting that there have been no free agent safeties over the past four years that could have been brought in to replace Conte. Do you even realize how absurd that sounds?

    Conte is here because he is a good player that produces.

  14. Pickgrin Says:

    Conte should be OK with good players surrounding him. Have we gotten to that point yet? Not so sure about the CB “situation” until we see vast improvement on the field. Last year was a train wreck in the defensive backfield way too often.

    A greatly improved pass rush should make a big difference for these DBs.

    We shall see…

  15. Bucsfanman Says:

    D-Rome- EVERYBODY just KNEW that Ward was better than Conte. Yet, Ward couldn’t get on the field. When Ward did get on the field it was like a matador in a bull ring. And HE was supposed to be better.
    People can say what they want, but we are getting our money’s worth with Conte on this team.
    When he misses, it’s in the open for everyone to see. But what wasn’t seen prior to him missing was the DE getting plunked the MLB flying past the tackle and no pursuit to speak of. Or, a DB (VHIII) playing 10 yards off who STILL gets beat deep. Imagine Julio Jones on Chris Conte! Imagine Julio on ANY safety! Yea, it is not going to end well!
    Chris Conte is a serviceable safety. I’m OK with him starting.

  16. Wausa Says:

    Conte has gotten a lot of blame that’s not his fault, bad corner and defensive line play makes a safety look awful.

  17. BigMacAttack Says:

    JimmyJack. Lol, totally forgot about Ward. Another pirate that did nothing but steal Glazer cash. He was horrible.

  18. 813bucboi Says:

    conte is alright…..always has been….

    problem is being “alright” wont get it done!!!!


  19. unbelievable Says:

    Well said Bucsfanman. Well said indeed.

    Conte is not perfect by any means, but many plays where it looks like he was at fault upon first glance, were actually from other players being out of position / off assignment, and Conte trying to come over late and make up for it.

    I’ll be excited when we have someone more talented to replace him, but the play of our d-line and cornerbacks was much worse than the play of our safeties.

  20. pick6 Says:

    Conte’s reality is the same as many guys around the league…..good enough to have a job so long as his physical skills are there, but close enough to average that teams will see him more as a placeholder than an answer. Whatever he is, he has proven to be the most effective safety this team has had since maybe Tanard Jackson…which is actually saying alot considering that the bucs have not been shy about seeking out experienced and fairly well known starters (Goldson, Swearinger, TJ Ward, to name a few) to try to solve the position

  21. DB55 Says:

    STOP! please just STOP!

    Reading these comments makes me sick to my stomach, literally want to vomit on my phone.

    What makes it worse is that many of you wanted Barron run out of town while praising Conte. It’s truly mind-boggling.

    I wish we could have a national poll so that you can see just how ridiculous you guys sound.

    But what is even more mind-boggling is that in 4 years no one has taken his job, I blame the DC of the 32nd ranked defense in the league. It’s almost like people think this is a game. This ain’t no damn game!

    I’m trying my best Joe I really am but this stuff just don’t make no damn sense. It’s like these guys spend all game looking at the ceiling as cold beer rushes down their throats cuz they sure ain’t watching the screen or field for that matter. I’m sorry I get triggered.

    Chris Conte’s greatest highlight is the Fred Jackson highlight for goodness sake. Ryan, Cam and Brees all shaking in their boots worrying about Conte playing center field, said no one ever! The cross guard at my kids elementary school instills more fear. Seriously man, you guys are going to send me to therapy.

  22. Joe Says:

    But what is even more mind-boggling is that in 4 years no one has taken his job,

    Maybe, just maybe, Conte isn’t as bad as you want him to be?

    Mark Barron sucked as a safety. He’s a damn fine linebacker.

  23. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Conte is good in nickel coverage, not a good run defender- just look at the video- he’s an ankle tackler- not enough physicality to fight off blocks

  24. DB55 Says:

    Chris Conte’s greatest highlight is the Fred Jackson highlight for goodness sake.

  25. Lamarcus Says:


    Oh man. I just YouTube it and man that was awful. That is kinda like how he plays now.

    My problem is Conte was supposed to turn into all pro Adam Archeleta type safety but no, he just a good athlete but way below average NFL football player. I love the way he knock Kwon out with a head to head spear because he missed the tackle on a bad angle. BTW why Kwon stayed in that game?

  26. Trench War Says:

    Joe says,
    Mark Barron sucked as a safety. He’s a damn fine linebacker.
    I totally agree and wish the Bucs had tried moving him around first before letting him go.

  27. Genghis KWON Says:

    He has stiff hips and can’t flip his body around quick enough to keep up with speedier slot receivers. He’s an average safety that gets exposed by above average players. Most of the time, he does all right, but people only notice big plays vs. safeties since they guard the deepest part of the field. I have two plays in my mind from when the Bucs played Atlanta, one where he was beat by speed because he didn’t flip his hips soon enough and another where he bit hard on play action and gave up a TD. He’s not bad, but he’s not the superstar everyone wants.