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Bears’ Amukamara at 30: Older, wiser ... and better?

The veteran cornerback is eager to prove he has the staying power his predecessors — Tracy Porter and Tim Jennings — did not.

Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara (20) celebrates an interception against the Lions last season at Soldier Field. Amukamara had a career-high three interceptions last year, including a 49-yard touchdown return against the Seahawks.
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BOURBONNAIS — Cornerback Prince Amukamara’s career training camp continued Saturday.

He intercepted Mitch Trubisky yet again in practice. It was his third consecutive practice with a pick, his fourth interception in the last three practices and fifth overall in 2019.

In his ninth year in the NFL, with his starting spot all but assured, a productive training camp is hardly a necessity for Amukamara, who’s coming off an impressive 2018 season in which he tied his career high with three interceptions, including his first touchdown. But he knows he’s in no position to coast.

“I think it’s huge,” Amukamara said. “I just turned 30 in June. One thing you don’t want to hear — especially in my position — is, ‘Oh, you’re getting old.’ Or he’s lost a step. Or he’s lost speed. [It’s important] to show scouts or the general management [and] the decision-makers that I can still press. I can still run. I can still break with these young guys. That’s huge for me.”

Amukamara knows what’s at stake. He’s in the second year of a three-year, $27 million contract ($18 million guaranteed) he signed in 2018. But next season, the Bears can cut him for a relatively painless “dead cap” hit of $1 million if his $10 million salary-cap hit proves cost-inefficient.

He knows that cap money will be tight with the Bears likely to extend the rookie contracts of All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson, running back Tarik Cohen, center Cody Whitehair and — probably — Trubisky among other developing contributors. And a 31-year-old cornerback is not likely to be high on the priority list. Unless Amukamara is so good that he forces the team’s hand.

Therein lies the motivation for Amukamara in 2019 — to prove he’s worthy of another contract with the Bears.

“That’s definitely one of my goals,” Amukamara said. ‘‘As long as we win, as long as I take care of business . . . I think everything will be lined up for me. However, you [reporters] know the business just as well as me. Guys have to get paid. Eddie is one. I’m sure Tarik. They can do whatever with Mitch. I know they’re going to have decisions they’re going to need to make.

“So just knowing that this is the last year of my guarantees and next year they don’t owe me nothing . . . I can’t go into a season worrying about that. I just know I have to put my best foot forward, and everything will take care of itself. [But], trust me, I’m very, very conscious of it.”

Amukamara also is aware of the dubious history of players at his position. The staying power of NFL cornerbacks not bound for the Hall of Fame after turning 30 is hit-and-miss.

Former Bears cornerback Tim Jennings made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2013 but was out of the league by 2015 at 31. He was replaced by Tracy Porter, who was a starter in 2015 and 2016 but out of the league in 2017 at 30.

Porter was replaced by Amukamara, who is determined not to continue that cycle of fading quickly.

“I’m trying to be very conscious of it,” Amukamara said. “I see Sherrick [McManis] — this is Sherrick’s 10th year, and Sherrick’s moving like crazy. This is Buster [Skrine’s] ninth [year], and he’s moving like crazy.

“When I hit 30 and I was feeling good, every time when I run, every practice, I listen to my body and check the engine like, ‘Am I still feeling good? When I wake up, does my body hurt?’ Because you hear all those stories, once you hit 30. For me, I’m starting to see that it’s a false narrative. I always ask myself every year, ‘Can I play two or three [more]?’ And it depends on the day. But, right now, I feel great.”