Coach Matt Nagy vowed to put the kickers competing for a job with the Bears in pressure situations in practice, and he delivered on that promise Friday.
The Bears had all eight kickers participating in their rookie minicamp attempt a 43-yard field goal at the end of practice, which was held outdoors in windy conditions. One after another, the kickers jogged onto the field with just a long-snapper and holder while the rest of their teammates looked on.
Four kickers are on the Bears roster: Chris Blewitt, Elliott Fry, Redford Jones and John Baron, who was signed this week as an undrafted free agent from San Diego State. Four others are participating in the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis: Minnesota-Mankato’s Casey Bednarski, Minnesota’s Emmit Carpenter, Purdue’s Spencer Evans and Notre Dame’s Justin Yoon.
The field-goal tries at the end of practice came after the kickers had been working out for the majority of the session on an adjacent field by themselves.
“This is going to be a little bit of a process,” Nagy said. “As you all saw, they were on the other field today and doing some different things that [special teams coordinator Chris Tabor] has them going through, trying to figure out exactly where they’re at accuracy-wise, leg strength-wise, and then creating pressure situations.
“What I want to do in going through this process is try to create situations where it puts a little heat on them, right? But at the same time let them learn through the process of the different style of kicks, the different types of holders.”
The only kickers who made the 43-yarders at the end of practice were Baron and Evans.
“Two-for-eight, that’s not good enough,” Nagy said. “Now I will say this, we always look at the end result of what happens, which is 100 percent of what matters, right? But as we’re learning, two of those eight holds and snaps, it wasn’t 100 percent. I’ll leave it at that. So we’ve got to work through that. That’s why after today we’re not going to just go make rash decisions or anything. We’re going to play it out.”
There’s no timetable for the Bears to make a final decision at the kicker position. During a recent radio appearance, general manager Ryan Pace said that he was continuing to keep all options open, including the possibility of signing a veteran who’s released by another team after training camp.
“We start with a lot. In the end, end with one, right?” Nagy said. “So how are we going to do it? If a guy has a rough day, does he bounce back and have seven good days? Does he not? We’re going to kind of create a game plan as to how we want to basically evaluate it and make a decision in the end. But right now, there’s no concrete answer. A lot of it’s gray.”
It’s no coincidence that Nagy had the kickers attempt 43-yard field goals Friday; that’s the distance that Cody Parkey missed from in the final seconds of the Bears’ playoff loss to the Eagles.
“That was on purpose,” Nagy said.
Asked if we wanted the kickers to know why they were trying 43-yarders, Nagy said: “They already know. They know loud and clear why.”
In addition to leaving no stone unturned in their hunt for a kicker, Nagy confirmed Friday that the team has hired Jamie Kohl as a kicking consultant. A former kicker at Iowa State, Kohl has trained some of the NFL’s top kickers and punters and operates camps year-round all over the country.
“We’re excited about that,” Nagy said. “He’ll be here a lot. He’ll be here throughout the season, and why not? [He’s] somebody that has expertise in that and understanding a lot more than I know. That’s the route we’re going to go. He’ll be able to be good for the kickers and I’m looking forward to how that goes.
“Coach [Tabor] has a relationship with him. We just know that with some of the things that he has background-wise with some of the people that he’s been around and worked with, I thought it was good. I just think when you get into breaking down specifically that position, it’s a singular position that there’s experts at and I feel like he really knows what he’s doing.”