By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporter
9:35 PM CDT, August 24, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With depth needed at safety, the Bears might look to a veteran who used to play for their biggest rival.
A league source told the Tribune the team is exploring the possibility of adding former Packer Charlie Peprah, who was released last month. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Peprah started 14 games in 2011 and finished with five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He intercepted Bears quarterback Josh McCown in the Packers' 35-21 win on Christmas night. The seventh-year veteran has 26 starts in 69 career games with the Packers and Falcons.
The issue with Peprah is his health. The Packers reportedly released him after he failed a physical on the first day of training camp. Peprah, 29, didn't participate in offseason workouts after having arthroscopic knee surgery. The Bears want to examine the knee before proceeding.
The Bears' need for depth at safety increased when starting free safety Chris Conte and his backup, rookie Brandon Hardin, were injured during last week's exhibition win over the Redskins. Hardin, who didn't make the trip for Friday's matchup with the Giants, suffered a neck injury and could be lost for a significant amount of time. Conte, who dislocated his right shoulder, expects to be back for the Sept. 9 season opener against the Colts. He stood on the sideline Friday offering encouragement to the active safeties.
Major Wright and Craig Steltz started against the Giants, and both had early hiccups against the run and pass. Steltz also was whistled for an unnecessary roughness penalty that led to a field goal.
Behind Conte, Wright, and Steltz in the safety group are promising second-year player Anthony Walters, newly signed Mark LeGree and rookies Trevor Coston and Jeremy Jones.
Peprah was a fifth-round draft pick of the Giants out of Alabama in 2006. He is listed as a strong safety, but the Bears expect their safeties to be interchangeable.
Last season, the Bears played with eight different starting safety combinations due to injury and poor play but finished with Wright and Steltz as the starters for the final two contests.
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