The Bears made a long-term commitment to one of their most valuable players Friday, signing kicker Robbie Gould to a four-year contract extension through the 2017 season.
Speaking to reporters, Gould thanked the McCaskey family and the Bears organization, singling out president and CEO Ted Phillips, general manager Phil Emery and contract negotiator Cliff Stein.
"This is an awesome opportunity," Gould said. "This is a special day for a lot of reasons. I thought it was important that I remain a Bear. It means a lot for my career. It means a lot to be able to do some things down the road individually, but also if I'm going to hold a trophy up, I want to hold it up with the Chicago Bears.
Although he was due to become a free agent in March, Gould concluded that he wanted to remain with the Bears after speaking to some retired players and longtime teammates.
"I really love the organization," Gould said. "I really love the city. I love being a Chicago Bear. I enjoy putting the uniform on every Sunday or Monday night or Thursday night or whenever we're playing. It means a lot. It means a lot to be in one jersey."
Gould is the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, having made 86.0 percent of his field goal attempts (234 of 272) since joining the Bears in 2005. This season he has tied his own team record for accuracy at 89.7 percent, making 26 of 29 tries just as he did in 2008.
Gould's 58-yarder in this year's season-opening victory over the Bengals broke his own team mark for the longest field goal in Bears history, and his 38-yarder in overtime Nov. 17 versus the Ravens was the 11th game-winning kick of his career.
In announcing the signing, Emery lauded Gould as both a player and a person, citing the two trips he coordinated to aid victims of the tornados that ravaged the state of Illinois Nov. 17. Emery called Gould "a treasure in terms of what he does for charity and his community work" and described the kicker as an ideal example of a Bears player showing excellence on and off the field.
Gould's seven seasons with at least 100 points are the most in team history. Signing the contract extension should enable him to become the Bears' all-time leading scorer. He currently ranks second with 1,021 points, trailing Kevin Butler (1,116) by 95 points.
"It's going to be pretty special," Gould said. "Kevin Butler and I always talk about those scenarios. I hope that when those records come up, I would love for him to be on the sideline or at the game so I could share that moment with him because I know how hard it is to hold that record."
Gould thanked former coaches Dave Toub and Kevin O'Dea, former teammate Brad Maynard, and current teammates Patrick Mannelly and Adam Podlesh for his success. The Penn State product also vowed to continue to approach his job with the same mentality.
"I've always come in here [thinking] I'm going to be the best that's ever played the game and I'm going to leave the best that's ever played the game." Gould said. "If you have that kind of attitude, you're going to be successful and hopefully that rubs off on some of the younger guys.
"Just because I sign a contract today doesn't mean that work ethic's going to end. I'm just as excited to continue my career as a Chicago Bear and hopefully it continues to be as successful as it's been with the help of so many guys."
Gould is the first Bears player to sign an extension during the 2013 season. Nearly 30 of his teammates are due to become free agents in March, which figures to make for a busy offseason.
Emery said at the start of training camp that the Bears likely would not re-sign any of their players until after the season because they had very little cap room and didn't want to detract from the focus of trying to win a championship. But he didn't rule out the possibility entirely.
The Bears used most of the emergency funds they had set aside to add players in the event of injuries during the season, but still had enough room to sign Gould.
"We were very open the last couple weeks of internally discussing the possibility of signing at least one player if we could find somebody that would fit into that equation," Emery said.