Prince Amukamara, the smart and steady right corner of the NFL's best secondary, tied a personal best with three interceptions last season, his eighth overall in the NFL but first on a multi-year free-agent deal.
In June, Amukamara turned 30 — a milestone many players don't reach while they're still playing, and especially not at the peak of their powers — but that didn't stop him from having what he believes is his best training camp since entering the league as the 19th overall pick by the New York Giants in 2011.
"I would say so," Amukamara asserted Saturday after catching at least his fifth interception in Bourbonnais, making him, by our unofficial count, the leading takeaway artist of camp in, again, what was easily the NFL's most opportunistic secondary last season. "I just feel very comfortable. I feel like I’m learning a lot — especially with the addition of new [secondary] coach Deshea Townsend."
Amukamara credits former DB coach Ed Donatell — who oversaw his career year in 2018 and Amukamara's first season in Chicago the year prior — with his improved ball production: the three picks, in addition to two forced fumbles, last year matched his takeaway total from 2013-17 combined. But he says Townsend, a former 13-year NFL vet with two Super Bowl rings as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is teaching him tricks about how to maintain his body and maximize his career.
"Like, every time I run, every practice, I just kind of listen to my body and check the engine. 'OK, I’m still feeling good.' ... Because you hear all these stories about when you hit 30. And I’m starting to see that’s a false narrative."
It's no wonder, then, that Matt Nagy recently shot down another apparently false narrative: Amukamara isn't one of the defense's headliners, despite all the Pro Bowl and All-Pro accolades last season going to his secondary mates Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson and basically everywhere you look in the front seven.
“That’s not what he says to us,” Nagy said with a smile. "He understands that being more of a veteran-type cornerback, has some experience, he’s seen a few of our plays so he’s able to take some really calculated risks. I just like the way that he comes to practice every day. He doesn’t use his age or being in this league for a long time as an excuse for practice. Practice is hard. I like that about him. He’s had a good camp.”
Arguably the best in that star-studded secondary, and though Amukamara takes his leadership role very seriously — "my job is to show the rookies and show everybody, 'hey, even though I’ve been here before and even though it's my ninth one, I’m still getting something out of it.'"— he's big on self-awareness and understands the business: with no guaranteed money left beyond 2019 on the three-year, $27 million contract he signed last year, it's possible he's mentoring his future heir.
That's why, although Amukamara says his goal is to earn another deal here and be a future building block rather than a bridge to the future, he knows he has to live in the present, which obviously appears very bright for he and the rest of the Bears defense.
"They’re going to have decisions that they’re going to need to make [next] year," he said, noting that Jackson and Tarik Cohen will be eligible for their first big NFL paydays, when Khalil Mack's cap figure also more than doubles from $11.9 million to $26.6 million. "This is the last year of my guarantees, and next year they don’t owe me nothing.
"But I can’t go into the season worrying about that. I just know I need to put my best foot forward and everything else will take care of itself. However, though, trust me, I’m very, very conscious of it."
We certainly do. We also trust that anyone who closely watched the way Amukamara took care of his business in Bourbonnais knows, too.