Bears continue thorough evaluation of kickers

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Knowing they don’t have to settle on a kicker until just before their Sept. 5 season opener, the Bears are taking their time evaluating candidates for the position.

In fact, they’re learning more about the three kickers currently on their roster—Chris Blewitt, Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro—with each passing day.

“It’s going well, it really is,” said special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor. “All three of them are doing a good job. We’re finding stuff out about them each and every day, and that’s been really good. The longer this thing goes, the more you know about the player, what’s underneath the hood. We’re going to keep staying the course right now.”

Asked about the deadline for a decision, Tabor said: “Well, we’ll definitely have to have somebody Thursday night against Green Bay. I feel good about that.”

The Bears have ramped up the competition by putting the kickers in pressure situations. During rookie minicamp in May, two kickers faced off in a contest representing the offense and defense, with the loser’s group having to do 25 up-downs.

In OTA practices, the Bears have been sending one kicker out to the middle of the field to attempt a field goal while the rest of the team remains completely quiet while standing on the sideline. It’s something that coaches have dubbed “Augusta silence,” comparing it to when golfers strike a ball at the Masters. 

“At some point in practice—it could be in the middle of a drill—the offense and defense go to the side of the field and we put [a kicker] out there and it’s a pressure-packed situation,” Tabor said. “When you stand back there and it’s silent and you’re alone out there on the field, it is different than standing over here on the sideline.”

Tabor feels that the silence can be unnerving.

“I am used to people yelling at me,” he said. “But when it’s quiet out there, it is a different feeling. [Coach Matt Nagy] and I have talked about it; it is different.”

The Bears remain unsure about whether they will bring two or three kickers to training camp next month.

“Honestly, we have not figured that out yet,” Nagy said. “We wanted to get through right into the end of minicamp [next week] and just kind of get back collectively and talk about it, collaborate. We’re kind of up in the air. We’re trying to let this thing play out. The more kicks we have, the more of a library we have.”

It’s easy to evaluate kickers on the field in terms of their accuracy, mechanics and leg strength. But at a position where mental toughness is so important, getting to know what makes them tick as people is equally important to Tabor.

“I have a lot of one-on-one interaction that no one else has with them, so I can see things that other people can’t,” Tabor said. “When we put them in situations—whether it’s two-minute, game-winning field goal—how do they respond? If they make it, great. If they don’t, how do they respond to that? 

“How do they come back the next day? If a guy has a bad day kicking, how does he bounce back? That tells you a lot of things. This is not an easy place to kick. We all know that and understand that. We’ll keep doing different things and see how it shakes out.”

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