We’re only one week into Bears training camp, yet the defensive starting lineup feels pretty locked in at this point. The team is returning nine of its starters from last season, plus gets back Eddie Goldman who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. But one final spot, the second cornerback position, is still up for grabs.
After cutting Kyle Fuller, Ryan Pace re-signed Artie Burns and brought in Desmond Trufant to compete for the job opposite Jaylon Johnson. But second-year player Kindle Vildor is ready to make a push to start, as well.
“I feel like it’s a big opportunity for me to solidify myself as a starter in this league and on this team and everything like that,” Vildor said. “I kind of knew that once I seen what was going on in the offseason and everything like that, and that’s just been my focus, just working hard every day, putting in the work and showcasing my talent the way I usually do.”
Vildor was pressed into duty towards the end of 2020 when Jaylon Johnson went down with a shoulder injury. And he performed well enough against the Vikings to draw a start in Week 15 against the Jaguars.
“Just getting that experience and going up against top receivers like Justin Jefferson, Thielen and actually starting in the playoff game, it actually boosted my confidence to another level,” Vildor said. “It's always about confidence, just getting the feel of the game and everything like that, you know it's easy for you, so it comes natural.”
Those limited opportunities were parlayed into a playoff start for Vildor, and he played admirably. Vildor was only targeted four times throughout the game, and although he surrendered a reception on each of those targets, he limited the damage to only 24 yards total. In addition he made seven tackles. Then, Bears coaches really started praising his play.
“After the game, when Chuck was here, he was telling me how it was such a good job I did in that playoff game,” Vildor said. “Our defensive backs coach, Deshea Townsend, was just telling me how much I did and how I played and everything like that.”
“We feel really good about Kindle Vildor,” Ryan Pace said earlier this year when asked about the decision to release Fuller. “I thought he got valuable play-time late in the year playing outside. He’s a good young player that we drafted and got better the more he played.”
“I think Kindle showed that he belongs in this league last year in the reps that he took last year,” Sean Desai said earlier this offseason. “So I think he’s going to have a chance to compete at various positions.”
Vildor heard all that praise, and it resonated with him. However, he refuses to let it make him complacent, and instead uses the praise as additional motivation.
“It stuck with me and in the offseason I just was grinding every day, just working for my opportunity.
“At the end of the day, I just know nothing is going to be given to me. I have to go out there and work, regardless of who is in the room and who’s not.”