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Bears fans will help ramp up pressure on kickers


BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coach Matt Nagy manufactured pressure situations for Bears kickers throughout the offseason program.

The reigning NFL coach of the year had them attempt a field goal from 43 yards after one practice, the distance that Cody Parkey missed from in the final seconds of the Bears' wild-card playoff loss to the Eagles.

Nagy also had kickers compete representing the offense and defense, with the loser's group having to do 25 up-downs as punishment. During OTA practices, kickers attempted field goals while the rest of the team stood on the sideline in compete silence—something Nagy dubbed "Augusta silence" referring to The Masters golf tournament.

The pressure will become more real Saturday when the Bears conduct their first training camp that's open to the public. For the first time since they were acquired this offseason, kickers Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro will compete in front of thousands of avid (and loud) Bears fans.  

"I think it's actually going to be better," Nagy said. "The Augusta silence, it was a different technique, kind of having a little bit of fun with it and creating a unique type of pressure for them. But it's not necessarily realistic just because you don't have all 22 people out there, people rushing, etc. And it's usually never dead quiet when you're kicking a field goal. This is going to be more realistic when they're out there, and so that's what I'm looking forward to."

The two kickers are excited to battle in front of fans in Bourbonnais.

"It should be fun," Pineiro said. "Kickers are always on the spot. You've got to embrace it. You have no choice. I'm embracing it."

"I think it's awesome," Fry said. "Get fans out here and try to create some pressure."

Fry signed with the Bears April 12. He spent this past spring with the Orlando Apollos in the Alliance of American Football, converting all 14 field goals he attempted with a long of 44 yards.

After what transpired with Parkey and the Bears last season, Fry knows how intense the scrutiny has and will continue to be on the kicking position.

"All the attention and everything, that's kind of outside the realm of the team," Fry said. "I don't know what people are saying about me. We're just focused on this year. Everything that happened last year really has nothing to do with Eddy or me. It's about this year.

"Every kick there's pressure. You're fighting for a job and fighting to make a living, but at the same time that's your job to deal with that."

Fry had a stellar career at South Carolina from 2013-16, arriving as a walk-on and leaving as the school's all-time leading scorer with 359 points. He connected on 66-of-88 field-goal attempts (75 percent) and 161-of-162 extra-point tries (99.4 percent).

The Bears acquired Pineiro in a trade with the Raiders May 7 in exchange for a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick. The deal stipulates that the Bears will only surrender the pick if Pineiro is on their active roster for at least five regular-season games this year.

Pineiro signed with Oakland last year as an undrafted free agent from Florida. It appeared that he was going to beat out veteran Mike Nugent, but Pineiro sustained a groin injury in training camp that landed him on injured reserve.

Pineiro appeared in one preseason game with Oakland, converting 3-of-3 field-goal attempts from 21, 48 and 45 yards in a 16-10 win over the Lions.

"I felt like I was winning the job," Pineiro said. "I had a great first preseason game. I was in my groove and then the next day in practice just kind of tweaked my groin a little bit."

Pineiro is the most accurate field-goal kicker in Florida history, having made 88.4 percent of his attempts (38 of 43) with a long of 54 yards. The Miami native converted 29 of his last 30 field-goal tries for the Gators, including his final 16.

Pineiro is excited about competing with Fry for a job with the Bears.

"It should be a good kicking battle," Pineiro said. "He's a really good kicker. I think we're both going to play in the NFL for a long time. We're both really good competitive kickers, so Chicago's not going to go wrong with [either] of us." 

While Fry and Pineiro are the only two kickers in training camp, Bears general manager Ryan Pace is continuing to monitor competitions around the NFL and will keep all of his options open, saying last Sunday during his pre-camp press conference: "Everything's on the table to make sure that we get that right."

There's no doubt the Bears fans who attend practices in Bourbonnais will be happy to hear that.

The Bears hit the practice field for the first time at Bourbonnais to start the 2019 training camp.