When the Bears declined the fifth-year option on cornerback Kyle Fuller’s rookie contract, then signed cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in free agency, it looked like a death knell for Fuller’s career in Chicago.
Fuller still has to survive cutdown day after the Bears’ preseason finale Thursday against the Browns at Soldier Field, but a solid training camp and preseason have put him in the picture as a contributor. In fact, he looks like a pretty good option after Amukamara suffered an ankle injury Sunday against the Titans.
More significantly, Fuller is over a major mental hurdle that helped put him on the sidelines for the entire 2016 season after arthroscopic knee surgery last August.
‘‘Yeah, for sure,’’ Fuller said after practice Tuesday. ‘‘You can just go out there and focus on what you’ve got to do on the field; it definitely helps you out. It is a big mental game. That’s some of the things, as football players, I think people are focusing on more these days. But I’m definitely aware of it. I like where my head is at — moving forward and looking forward to it.’’
Fuller hasn’t had a lot of opportunities playing behind Amukamara and Cooper, but he has shown flashes of the skill that made him a big hit in 2014, when he made the Pro Football Writers Association’s all-rookie team. He said he thinks he’s back to where he was at that career high point.
‘‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’’ Fuller said. ‘‘And I think that was the biggest thing, just getting back out there. It feels good. You feel more like yourself. I’m most happy and enjoying just being back out there. I guess you could say it’s a relief. But I put a lot of hard work in this offseason to set myself up for where I am now. I feel good. Camp is going well.’’
After excelling in Mel Tucker’s zone-based defensive scheme as a rookie and struggling in Vic Fangio’s more man-based scheme in 2015, Fuller looked like a player caught in the transition of a coaching change. But he appears to be acclimating better to Fangio’s defense.
‘‘Being in the third year of the defense, I definitely feel more comfortable where I’m at and what we’re doing and what they’re asking me to do,’’ Fuller said. ‘‘So you’re able to go out there and play and maybe not think about some of the little things that may have been a little tricky for you the first year.’’
It remains to be seen whether Fuller is back to where he was. He’s not making any predictions.
‘‘I don’t really like to make it about me,’’ Fuller said. ‘‘I’ll say I like where we’re headed as a group. Everybody, including myself, has to just do their part. I think that’s all we need to worry about. Everything else will take care of itself.’’
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