LAKE FOREST – At last, there is a winner.
Some didn’t even believe it when he was the only kicker on the roster since a few usually pop up on the waiver wire once final cuts are made around the National Football League.
But on Sunday, Matt Nagy made it official, telling reporters that Eddy Pineiro will be the Bears’ placekicker to begin the 2019 season on Thursday night against the Packers.
At last, Eddy could breathe.
“It’s a lot of weight lifted off of my shoulders. Excited to be the guy,” said Pineiro of winning the job. “This organization believes in me and has given me a shot to be where I’m at. I just want to make them happy.”
He has so far, ending an odyssey that began on January 6th when Cody Parkey knocked a potential game-winning 43-yard field goal off the upright and crossbar to end the Bears’ season in the Wild Card game against the Eagles.
There was the now-infamous collection of free agent kickers to performed during rookie camp – a weekend that was the subject of a Sports Illustrated article in August. Only Elliott Fry made it out for OTAs and training camp, with Pineiro joining the fun in early May.
Those guest competed from there through training camp, with their kicks getting as much attention from the fans as any other aspect of the workouts in Bourbonnais. Pineiro emerged as the winner following the second preseason game, and he finished the preseason 8-of-9 on field goal attempts, then kept it through final cuts along with the waiver wire claims.
“I think there is a lot less now,” said Pineiro when asked about pressure that he feels. “I feel a lot better, I feel a lot more confident. I’ve made eight out of my last nine kicks in preseason. I’m feeling confident going into the season so it should be fun.”
While that’s great, the celebrating will be short-lived. Considering the team’s struggles at the position since the release of Robbie Gould, the amount of patience will be limited. One or two bad games could lead to calls for a change at the position, especially if it costs the team a game like it did in the playoffs in January.
Pineiro will be tested both mentally and physically by the expectations along with the difficult conditions which Soldier Field presents.
“To play in a place like this, you have to be mentally strong and just block everything out,” said Pineiro. “Block the media, block the fans, block everything out and just make kicks.”
If he does so, he along with the franchise will remain quite happy.