After failing to live up to expectations in Tampa, kicker Roberto Aguayo is hoping that a change of scenery with the Bears will help him revert to the form he displayed at Florida State.
A three-time All-American in college, Aguayo converted just 71 percent of his field-goal attempts (22 of 31) last season as a Buccaneers rookie after being selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the draft.
Aguayo was waived by the Buccaneers Saturday after missing an extra point and 47-yard field goal attempt Friday night in a preseason loss to the Bengals. He was claimed by the Bears Sunday and was in uniform for Monday's practice in Bourbonnais.
The Buccaneers traded up in last year's draft to select kicker Roberto Aguayo with the 59th overall pick.
"It's unfortunate," Aguayo said about his time in Tampa. "What we both wanted, it just never flourished. I'm excited to be here with the Bears and I'm excited for this fresh opportunity and a new start."
Aguayo will compete with veteran Connor Barth, the same kicker that Aguayo supplanted in Tampa after arriving as a high draft pick. The Bears are not displeased with Barth but saw the opportunity to add Aguayo as a win/win situation.
"We're trying to improve our football team and trying to make it competitive," said coach John Fox. "He's a guy that we had high grades on as Roberto was coming out [into the draft]. I think it creates competition. Connor had a great day [in Monday's practice]. We had a field goal day today and he was 100 percent in all of his kicks. So I think that competition is good for our football team."
Aguayo was informed by the Buccaneers that he was going to be released while cameras from the HBO reality series "Hard Knocks" were rolling. So the world will soon get to see what normally is a very private moment for a professional athlete. But Aguayo won't dwell on it.
"I know the type of man I am," he said. "I know the integrity and what I have inside me. That doesn't define me as a man. I'm defined by how I keep my head up and keep pushing. That's in the past now. Yeah, at the time it hurt. But there's new opportunities and I'm here now, so this is my next opportunity and I'm looking forward to making the most of it."
Aguayo left Florida State as the third most accurate field-goal kicker in NCAA history at 88.5 percent (69 of 78). But he struggled with accuracy as a Tampa Bay rookie, especially from long distance, making just 4-of-11 tries from 40 yards-and-beyond.
Aguayo didn't deny that the pressure associated with being such a high draft pick had an adverse effect on him with the Buccaneers.
"I'm not going to focus on that anymore," he said. "There was a standard that was set with that. But at the end of the day, I know what I'm capable of and the standard that is held in the NFL. I'm just going to go out here and do what I've got to do here."
Barth made 18-of-23 field-goal attempts (78.2 percent) last year in his first season with the Bears. After missing three of his first seven tries, he closed by hitting 14-of-16.
Barth signed with the Bears one week before the start of the regular season following the release of Robbie Gould, the franchise's all-time leading scorer. Prior to joining the Bears, Barth spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Chiefs (2008), Buccaneers (2009-13 and 2015) and Broncos (2014).
"Roberto's a great talent," Barth said. "He was one of the best if not the best to come out of college football. You never know what can happen. That's part of football.
"It's just life. My parents always say, 'Control what you can control.' At the end of the day, it's all you can do. You've just got to go out there and perform. It's a performance-based business. If you don't do it, you're not going to be anywhere. I've somehow hung around for a little bit. I'll try to continue to work and kick well and if I keep kicking like I did today, hopefully things will work out—if not here, somewhere else."