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Piñeiro honing kicking skills, getting stronger

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It's not Halas Hall, but it's the next best thing for Bears kicker Eddy Piñeiro.

With NFL players prohibited from working out at team facilities due to the coronavirus, Piñeiro has been kicking on an artificial turf field at Moore Park in Miami two or three times a week. The swirling, unpredictable wind he encounters there reminds him of what he contends with at Soldier Field.

"There's actually a park I go to that's super open," Piñeiro said Tuesday during a Zoom video call with reporters. "It's probably the most-windiest park."

Piñeiro kicks at Moore Park with his regular holder, Bears punter Pat O'Donnell, who lives about an hour away from Piñeiro in south Florida.

"We've been able to work together this whole offseason, which has been pretty good, so the chemistry stays strong," Piñeiro said.

At every workout, Piñeiro and O'Donnell try to replicate what they would be doing during a typical Bears practice in Lake Forest.

"Me and Pat don't just go in and say, 'OK, we're just going to kick some balls,'" Piñeiro said. "We kind of have a set game plan: 'Today, we're going to do this. We're going to have a last-second field goal at the end of practice.' Or, 'We're going to manipulate the wind or hit the ball this way for it to go this way.'

"We work on a lot of little details and stuff like that. We don't just go in and just kick the ball. We have a set game plan for that whole practice. We're going to kick more kicks on the left hash or we're going to kick more kicks on the right hash, just different scenarios. We try to put ourselves in the most in-game, real situations as we possibly can."

In addition to kicking, Piñeiro has also been working out Monday through Friday at Bommarito Performance Systems, a popular training facility for NFL players.

Entering the offseason, the Bears asked Piñeiro to add weight to his 179-pound frame and get stronger in the weight room. He has done both, bulking up to 187 pounds by gaining eight pounds of muscle.

"The biggest thing was, 'Gain a little bit of weight and try to get a little bit better in the weight room,'" Piñeiro said. "So that was the one thing I really focused on this offseason—just [adding] weight and getting stronger in the weight room."

In his first season with the Bears last year, Piñeiro made 82.1 percent of his field-goal attempts (23 of 28). The team was impressed with how he rebounded from a mini midseason slump to hit his final 11 field-goal tries over the last six games.

Piñeiro was acquired last May in a trade with the Raiders in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. He won a competition for the job with Elliott Fry in training camp and the first couple weeks of the preseason after the Bears had evaluated several other kickers in their rookie minicamp.

A year later, Piñeiro will be challenged by Ramiz Ahmed, who signed with the Bears April 17. Ahmed last kicked competitively at the University of Nevada in 2018, when he made 15-of-20 field-goal attempts (75.0 percent). After not playing football while attending UNLV and Arizona State, he made the Wolf Pack team as a kickoff specialist in 2017 following a tryout.

"For Eddy specifically, it's going to be good," said coach Matt Nagy. "We always want competition. Any time somebody feels like that they just have a spot locked in for certain reasons, then I don't know how great that is.

"Obviously, there are some outliers, guys just know it. But for a guy like Eddy, I love the way that he handled last year. It wasn't easy. And we tried that on purpose with the kicking challenges and competitions that we had. But he pulled through that. To us, that's the silver lining.

"At the same time, let's make sure that he understands and we understand that the more pressure situations, the more experiences that he gets, it'll help us and help him down the road."

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