The Bears’ kicking competition takes the spotlight at rookie mini-camp
LAKE FOREST – How can he not talk about it? It’s not really possible to leave it out.
Despite all of the good the Bears did in 2018, it’s the last image of the star crossed season remains the kick from Cody Parkey’s foot smacking the post in the final minute of the game. It cost the Bears a shot to move onto the divisional round, led to Parkey’s dismissal, and to an offseason of wondering who the kicker might be.
Yes, people are wondering. Moments like the one in the Wild Card game aren’t soon forgotten and Matt Nagy made sure of that. On Sunday, the coach revealed that he’d made a video of that final moment in 2018 when a great season came to a crushing end.
“No elephant in the room, this is where we’re at, this is what happened last year, this is gone now, how do we improve?” said Nagy. “That happened to be the last play of our season. So now, if you’re a kicker in the room, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. If you are a coach or a player in the room, you’re going to feel uncomfortable.
“So let’s go test it out now.”
Hence the competition during the three-day rookie camp at Halas Hall was quite intense when it came to the kickers. It included attempts of that Parkey 43-yard field goal, which six of the eight kickers taking part in the weekend missed on Friday.
Those continued throughout the weekend, and by the end, only two of the eight kickers brought in still had a spot on the team: Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry.
“It’s been wild, but that’s what they’re trying to do,” said Fry. “They’re trying to create a competition. The media has been following this story for a while. With eight kickers here, you’re trying to get the best guys available.
“So they’re trying to put pressure, they’re trying to do everything. But it was good, it was fun. Coming out and competing for three days.”
Then on Monday, per a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Bears have brought in yet another kicker thanks to a trade. Eddy Pineiro, who spent last training camp with the Raiders before being put on IR in September, comes to the Bears in exchange for a 2021 seventh-round pick.
He made his only three attempts of the preseason before being shut down for the year before the regular season began. During the 2016 and 2017 seasons at Florida, Pineiro made 38-of-43 kicks, including 29 of the last 30 he attempted for the Gators.
Pineiro earned some notoriety when he hit an 81-yard field goal in practice with the Gators in May of 2017.
So for the moment, it’s these three kickers that will contend for the spot that was vacated by Parkey following his forgettable playoff moment. Make no mistake, the Bears won’t be afraid to put pressure on their kickers, so they’ll be ready for moments like last January in 2019.
But will all of this, from the tryouts to the Pineiro trade produce the Bears’ Week 1 kicker?
“That’s a great question, I feel strongly that it will happen, but again, I don’t know,” said Nagy when asked if this process would help the Bears find their first-week kicker. “There’s so many things that can go on between now and the start of the season that I wish I could tell you ‘I knew this was going to happen.'”