When the Bears signed safeties Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray in free agency, they were all promised one thing—the opportunity to win a starting job.
"It's wide open," Emery said Thursday at Halas Hall. "That's exactly what I told every one of them when they were signed: 'This is a wide-open competition; best player wins.'"
Conte could open camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list after undergoing shoulder surgery in late March. But Emery said that he expects the fourth-year pro to be ready to play in the preseason opener Aug. 8 against the Eagles at Soldier Field.
"Obviously we're talking about a healing and rehab process," Emery said. "It's always a little bit of a non-predictor. But our best-guessed estimate and medical evidence would say that he'll be ready for the first preseason game."
Emery was asked by a reporter why Conte didn't have the surgery immediately after the 2013 season, which would have pushed his rehab schedule up by a couple of months.
"He signed out healthy," Emery said. "He started training and he just didn't feel right. He had it examined, he went through a decision-making process, and he made a decision to go ahead and have it done. I'm happy that he'll be ready for camp and expect good things out of him."
Selected by the Bears in the third round of the 2011 draft out of California, Conte has appeared in 45 games with 40 starts in three seasons. He has recorded 228 tackles, six interceptions, 13 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Conte started all 16 games for the first time in his career last season, registering 95 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass breakups and one forced fumble. In early April, the 6-2, 203-pounder acknowledged that he struggled in 2013 and explained why he opted to undergo surgery.
"Whenever you don't have a good season you do some soul searching," Conte said. "You find the reasons why you love the game. Competition is a big part of why I love playing football. I knew they would be bringing in players to compete. It doesn't bother me. It will only make me better.
"I know I'm going to have to compete for my position on this team. I am prepared to do that and felt having this surgery was the best way to be 100 percent healthy and be the best player I can possibly be."
The Bears signed Mundy to a two-year contract March 11, the first day of free agency. The 6-1, 215-pounder has appeared in 80 games with 14 starts over five NFL seasons with the Steelers (2009-12) and Giants (2013), registering 143 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defensed and one sack.
Primarily a reserve during his four seasons with the Steelers, Mundy started 10 of 16 games played with the Giants last year, establishing career highs with 70 tackles and four tackles-for-loss while also recording two pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
The Bears inked Jennings to a one-year deal March 12. The 6-foot, 187-pounder appeared in 47 games with 26 starts the past three seasons with the Packers, compiling 124 tackles, one interception, two pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Jennings started all 16 games last season, recording a career-high 74 tackles. He was due to become a restricted free agent, but the Packers declined to make him a qualifying offer, enabling him to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Bears signed McCray to a one-year contract March 18. The 6-1, 221-pounder appeared in 60 games with 10 starts the past four seasons with the Cowboys, registering 104 tackles and two interceptions as well as 73 special-teams tackles, including 28 as a rookie in 2010.