CHICAGO – The last time a kicker stepped onto the turf at Soldier Field, it didn’t go so well. The two guys vying for that spot in the current Bears’ roster are hoping to reverse that memory for Bears’ fans.
However, they hadn’t stepped onto the field, which one of them may call home this fall. From the turf to the swirling wind and the pressure of the fans, it can be an intimidating place to kick.
Saturday’s annual night practice was the chance for Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro to get a feel for the place before their competition heads into preseason on Thursday when the Bears host the Panthers.
“I always think the more you can kick in a stadium or wherever, the more valuable it’s going to be to you later,” said Fry. “It was really good. It was a nice night. Obviously, didn’t have to battle any wind or anything, but it was good to get in front of the fans, get out in the stadium and kick.”
To be fair, the guys had perfect conditions, with temperate weather and low wind to make their attempts.
“I was craving a good day like today,” said Pineiro, and he got it in a number of ways.
He was the best, knocking down all 12 of his field goal tries on the evening, including a 60-yarder. Elliott Fry wasn’t far behind, knocking down 7-of-9 kicks.
It’s representative of the entire training camp competition between the kickers, which has been a healthy trade of big kicks on alternate days. Both head coach Matt Nagy and special teams coach Chris Tabor said there is no leader as they approach the preseason opener.
“Oh yeah, it’s fun” said Pineiro of the competition. “He’s pushing me, I’m pushing him. He makes one, I make one. It’s been a good competition. It’s probably been the best competition I’ve ever had to compete against somebody. We’re both good kickers, and it doesn’t even start with us. It starts with the snappers (Patrick) Scales; you know, he’s been on point with every single snap that he’s done so far. He’s been on point. Pat (O’Donnell) holding the ball and his experiences. It’s been a good operation.”
How it will work on Thursday against the Panthers is still not known. The pair will alternate kicking duties during Monday and Tuesday’s practice before that plan becomes official. So far, everything is working well to help the Bears find their guy, and helping the two candidates do all they can to make their case.
“I think we’re performing a lot better than in OTAs,” said Fry. “We’re both kicking really well. I think it’s solid competition right now and we’re both making kicks.”
If they can do so, maybe they’ll get the shot to take the field more consistently over the next four months.