Fast Eddy: Injury can't keep Pineiro from one of Bears' hottest starts

Gene Chamberlain

Most Bears Field Goals

(After 4 games played)

Kicker............FG... .Pct

Cody Parkey.....9... .900

Eddy Pineiro.....8... .889

Jeff Jaeger.......8... .889

Kevin Butler......8... .750

Mirro Roder......5.... .714

Connor Barth....5.... .555

For more than one reason, Sunday's game at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium in London will be big for Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro.

Neither reason has to do with the injury Pineiro has been battling through since making the game-winning kick against Denver.

Pineiro has continued kicking from placement throughout the pinched nerve in his right knee which can impact every kick he makes. It's why he's given up kickoff duties to Pat O'Donnell and only kicks from placement, and when he kicks field goals it affects his leg motion.

"Actually, he's working on keeping it locked," Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. "That's where the pain's coming through, so he has to concentrate on that part of his follow-through.

"He's doing a good job managing that. He's getting better and better each day."

Pineiro said the knee has improved since he limped onto the field against Washington to kick.

"A lot of it's mental, too, obviously," he said. "The biggest thing with me was just locking my leg out and my follow through and stuff, which affected me a little bit. But a lot of players play with pain. I know I'm not the only one playing with pain."

Despite kicking through the injury, he's tied for ninth in NFL field goal accuracy at 8-for-9 (89 percent). Pineiro actually is off to one of the hottest starts ever by a Bears kicker through four games. The only better percentage for kickers with at least five attempts was Cody Parkey at 90 percent (9 for 10) last year.

It's not the first time Pineiro has dealt with injury, but this one hasn't approached the severity of that one. He went on season-ending IR with a groin injury in Oakland last year after a very strong showing in preseason.

So getting hurt right after his winning 53-yarder against Denver was giving him dark version of deja vu.

"Obviously you think about it and you go, 'Man, I got injured in Oakland and ended the year there. And now this happens,' " Pineiro said. "For me it was just a mental thing."

Pineiro went through a full practice Wednesday and is ready to kick at the new home of Premier League soccer, a thrill for a former soccer player.

My dream was always to be a professional soccer player growing up as a kid," Pineiro said. "So it's going to be a special moment.

"My team growing up was always Real Madrid, but I like the EPL."

Of course the other reason is it's a game against the team which traded him. This isn't a Khalil Mack situation, where he left with bad feelings toward the coaching staff, management or anyone else.

The Bears gave up a seventh-round draft pick to get Pineiro, who would have had a real job battle from Daniel Carlson if he stayed in Oakland.

"I was in my apartment," Pineiro said about his trade in April. "I remember having a really good practice, I didn't miss that practice, and I was doing really good and then the GM (Mike Mayock) called me and said hey we have a good opportunity for you to be the Bears' kicker.

"Yeah, they just put me on a plane like two hours later and I left."

No inkling of a possible trade, nothing, but Pineiro came to Chicago with a positive attitude.

"Yeah, I was definitely blindsided because I felt like I was doing really good and I was competing and doing well," he said. "But everything happens for a reason. I was excited. I was excited for the opportunity.

"I knew the Bears needed a kicker so I had a shot to be the starting guy and obviously it worked out."

When he arrived at Halas Hall for the famed kicking competition, Pineiro ran right into another former Raider.

"I mean Khalil Mack, (Akiem) Hicks and a couple of other guys, they just shook my hand and said, 'hey we believe in you,' " Pineiro said. "From the first day they've all supported me."

Pineiro left Florida early because he thought he was going to be drafted, so when the Raiders signed him they locked up a place close to his heart. There won't be mixed feelings for him about them like Mack might have.

"I'm very grateful for their opportunity," Pineiro said. "They were the team that believed in me at that time. I didn't get drafted and they're a team that believed in me and they gave me a shot."

Twitter@BearsOnMaven

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