DECATUR, Ill. – The Bears returned to their birthplace in Decatur this weekend to celebrate the beginning of their 100th season.
On Sunday, general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy held their annual pre-training camp press conference, four days before the Bears are slated to report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
To no one's surprise, the first 10 questions of Sunday's 29-minute session at the Decatur Civic Center revolved around the Bears' kicking situation.
Pace told reporters that he's eager to see Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry—the only two kickers currently on the roster—compete in training camp. But the general manager also stated that the Bears would continue to consider other options at the position.
"We're excited about the two young guys we have," Pace said. "Those guys are going to battle it out. [But] obviously we're scouring the waiver wire as we go forward. It's kind of open competition."
Pace characterized the competition between Pineiro and Fry as even heading into training camp. Pineiro made 29 of his final 30 field-goal attempts at Florida and was competing for a job with the Raiders last summer before sustaining a season-ending groin injury in training camp. Fry most recently kicked for the Orlando Apollos in the Alliance of American Football this spring, connecting on all 14 field goals he tried.
"Eddy's got real natural leg talent," Pace said. "He's got a strong leg. It's just developing consistency as he goes forward. He's a young kicker. Elliott is a little different. Elliott's got a pretty consistent stroke. He had a year away from football. We anticipate some of that leg strength improving as well."
During training camp and the preseason, the Bears will monitor what's transpiring with kickers throughout the NFL.
"We're watching all the teams, all the competitive situations around the league," Pace said. "We're just watching that progress as we go forward. We know right now where we stand, where some of those battles are occurring. We're watching those, and I'm sure there will be ones that will pop up that might surprise us."
Asked about the possibility of the Bears trading for a kicker, Pace said: "Everything's on the table to make sure that we get that right."
Expectations for Trubisky
Pace said that he wants to see "steady incremental improvement" from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this season.
"I think we've seen him do that, and as long as he just keeps on that pace—steady incremental improvement—we'll be happy," Pace said. "You can feel his confidence growing; we've talked about that. Chemistry, continuity, all those things going into Year 2, and that's going to continue as we go forward."
The second overall pick in the 2017 draft is entering his third year with the Bears and second operating Nagy's offense. Last season Trubisky was named to the Pro Bowl after completing 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 95.4 passer rating.
The Bears couldn't be any happier with the leadership ability that Trubisky exhibits on and off the field.
"I think it's just natural for him," Pace said. "I think it's the way he was raised. His parents are awesome. That's just the person he is. He's very close with all his teammates. I think he's critical of himself, but in the right way.
"We felt it at North Carolina, even in the one year you could feel that quality in him. So it's just natural, it's easy for him. Matt always says be authentic, be you, and that's what Mitch is doing."
Culture sustains success
Pace is confident that the Bears will build on last year's NFC North championship with another successful season in 2019 due in large part to the culture that has been established within the organization.
"You start with coach Nagy and what he's doing and the type of players that we have in our locker room and our entire staff," Pace said. "I think culture is what sustains success.
"These guys are all great teammates. They're all passionate about football. They're all highly competitive. It's just a really close, tight-knit group [with] no egos. I think that all comes together and all gels together to what we have going right now."
After a highly-successful first season as coach, Nagy fully understands that he will face different challenges in Year 2.
"Just like anything that's new, there's that honeymoon stage and everyone's excited because it's new," Nagy said. "Everything that we taught last year as coaches for the first time, it was the first time [players are] hearing it, so it's new.
"Now it becomes the second time they hear it, and so where I think the good coaches separate from average coaches is you need to be able to have a good pulse on your players, have a good feel for what they're really taking in. So don't be monotonous in what you do. Change things up. Let them have more say. Make sure that they understand that everything we did last year means nothing. What it did is it helped our culture, but it means zero for the 2019 season."