TAMPA — The Bucs re-signed Chris Conte to a one-year deal, bringing back the 27-year-old who had 79 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last season, his first with Tampa Bay.
Conte is the third unrestricted free agent to re-sign with the Bucs, joining running back Doug Martin and safety Keith Tandy. None of the other unrestricted free agents has signed anywhere else, now five full days into free agency. The Bucs have their top four safeties from 2015 back under contract for this season in Conte, Tandy, Bradley McDougald and Major Wright.
Conte has a history with new Bucs secondary coach Jon Hoke, who worked with him on Lovie Smith's staff with the Bears.
LOVIE SPEAKS: In his first public comments since being fired by the Bucs in January, former coach Lovie Smith told Fox Sports Radio on Saturday that he was "disappointed" and "surprised" that the Glazer family made the decision not to give him a third season.
"When you make a change, it takes a while," Smith said. "We made progress from Year 1, and I thought the team was set up to really take off in Year 3. I can live with that. I'm pretty confident in my abilities, and normally when things like that have happened to me, I've been met with another great opportunity, and that's what I have here with the University of Illinois."
Smith, 57, was hired March 7 to coach the Fighting Illini, signing a six-year, $21 million contract.
Asked about the overall lack of patience from NFL ownership today, Smith said he had expected more time to turn around a Bucs program that hasn't won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
"I definitely think there should be more patience. It takes time," he said. "If you make a change, there's something that's wrong, and you can't just flip a switch. Things don't happen overnight. You have to have a plan going in and stick with that plan.
"When I took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job, I thought there was a plan in place. I thought that plan was being put into action. When you're the boss, though, you can be impatient. Normally the franchises that do take their time and give you a chance, maintain that level of success."