Coach Matt Nagy revealed Sunday that Eddy Pineiro will serve as the Bears’ kicker in Thursday night’s regular-season opener against the rival Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
Nagy said that the decision was made based on Pineiro’s “body of work.” In four preseason games, the second-year pro made 8-of-9 field-goal attempts with a long of 58 yards and 3-of-4 extra-point tries.
“We feel like he’s certainly earned it,” Nagy said. “He made it through a lot of mental challenges, physical challenges, working through the highs and lows.”
The lowest low came last Thursday night against the Titans when Pineiro missed an extra point by a wide margin. He bounced back, however, to make three field goals without a miss from 32, 39 and 35 yards.
“Obviously, no one wants to miss an extra point in that game like he did,” Nagy said. “It wasn’t a good miss. He missed it to the left there pretty good. But he rebounded.
“I mentioned to [the media] before: you want everybody to be perfect. Is that going to happen realistically? Probably not. How do we balance it as a staff as we move forward? It’ll be fun to watch. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it. But he deserves it. He earned every right to be our kicker, and we feel good about it.”
Pineiro told reporters that special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor informed him on Friday that he had won the job and would kick against the Packers. The 23-year-old celebrated the news by dining with his father at the Cuban restaurant Havana in downtown Chicago.
“I’m excited, confident,” Pineiro said. “I’m happy that they chose me to be the guy. I’ve just got to prove them right and show them that I’m the guy and just keep making kicks.”
Pineiro has done that with regularity the past several years. He made 29 of his final 30 field-goal attempts—including his last 16—at Florida, and then went 3-for-3 with the Raiders in last summer’s preseason opener before suffering a season-ending groin injury.
Although Pineiro is guaranteed nothing beyond Week 1, the Bears are confident that he’ll continue to excel.
“In the end, for all of us, it’s about production,” Nagy said. “And he knows that. We’re real with him. We’re honest with him. But we try not to think of the glass-half-empty type deal. He’s got a real good confidence going about him right now. We as a staff have a really good confidence going about us. We feel good about it.
“Hopefully it’s the arrow-up deal where he hits a few early, he gets his confidence going and before you know it, he’s on a nice streak. … I’m just hoping that he’s that guy that comes out and has a great year.”
Pineiro’s teammates were happy to hear that he has earned the job.
“He’s done a great job in the preseason and as a teammate and a brother of this team, we’re behind him 100 percent of the way,” said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. “I love the excitement that Eddy kind of brings and that juice, how he gets excited after he makes a kick. I feed off that and the other guys feed off that as well.”
“He put a lot of hard work leading up to this,” said punter Pat O’Donnell, who holds for Pineiro’s kicks. “I think he played well enough to be the starting guy, and all our confidence is in him right now.”
Pineiro practiced kicking at Soldier Field Sunday morning, working out with O’Donnell and long-snapper Patrick Scales.
“It was a little windy out there, which was good, just adjusting to the wind and the grass and the field and stuff,” Pineiro said.
Gaining more familiarity with his home stadium no doubt will aid Pineiro’s mindset heading into Thursday night’s season opener at Soldier Field.
“A lot of it is mental, especially in a place like this,” Pineiro said. “It’s not every other place. You’ve just got to be mentally strong and block out everything—block the media, block the fans, block everything out and just make kicks.”