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Bears’ Moore wants to play safety

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 10:16 a.m. CDT

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(MCT) — D.J. Moore wants to play safety. Don’t laugh.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Bears defensive back, who officially becomes an unrestricted free agent March 12, spent the start of the offseason contemplating how he could make a bigger impact. A position switch was his final conclusion.

“Playing safety, you affect the whole field,” he said. “You have to do more than at corner. And as far as playing the deep pass, I can read the quarterback better than anybody.”

Obviously Moore’s confidence never wanes, even after losing his nickel back role to Kelvin Hayden last season. It all but marked the end of his time with the Bears, although the old coaching staff was pleased with how he handled the demotion.

Oddly enough, the Bears might need someone to fill the nickel back role this season. Tuesday’s final day of the NFL scouting combine gave them a chance to dissect what general manager Phil Emery called a deep group of defensive backs.

The Bears could use some depth at cornerback anyhow, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rookie get an opportunity at nickel — although having to cover a star slot receiver, maintain blitz responsibilities and tackle in the middle of the field might be tough for a first-year player. They also have expressed a desire to keep the physical Hayden, but the 29-year-old veteran — like Moore — wants a chance to be a starter. Hayden also becomes a free agent next month.

As for Moore, the former fourth-round draft pick sees no chance ever to start at cornerback with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings around. His desire to play safety wouldn’t work in Chicago, either.

“You have two All-Pro corners and two (solid) safeties,” Moore said. “Once you’ve been somewhere for a certain period of time, it just becomes harder for someone else to break through. I’m good enough to play every down. I just need a better chance.”

Moore collected eight interceptions during his second and third seasons combined despite limited reps. His knack for playmaking seemed to solidify his standing. Not to mention he was a personal project for former coach Lovie Smith.

Freelancing and missed tackles eventually got Moore in trouble as he eventually lost out to Hayden. His decision to speak out against quarterback Jay Cutler after Cutler lightly shoved tackle J’Marcus Webb last season didn’t help matters.

Moore doesn’t believe his rant affected his status as much as assumed.

“None of it made sense to me,” Moore said of being benched. “I had been doing the same thing I was doing for three years and I was doing it really good and then all of a sudden, I wasn’t doing it good.”

Moore is adamant about having the ability to play safety well. At the end of last season, he practiced at free safety because of injuries and was prepared to play that role in a game if someone went down.

“The reason he could make that adjustment is because has great balls skills, but it would have to be at free safety,” said former Bears nickel backs coach Mikal Smith. “You have to make sure you’re a sure-tackler. And you can’t guess back there. You can’t be wrong.”

Moore, of course, isn’t the most physical player, so playing safety seems like that much more of a stretch. In terms of height, he made reference to the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas (5-10), but Thomas is a hard-hitter.

“I can tackle,” Moore said. “My thing is I just didn’t like jumping in the pile. I’m more of a one-on-one, wrap-you-up type guy. In Chicago, you have to stick your head in that pile.

“And if any team gives me a chance to play (safety), my height wouldn’t matter. You’d just teach me something and I’ll do it. The thing I don’t have to learn is how to make plays.”

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