Bears stand behind selection process leading to Eddy Pineiro
The courtship of Eddy Pineiro has begun in earnest for the Bears.
Pineiro began trying at practice this week to further impress coach Matt Nagy, the coaching staff, and kicking coach Jamie Kohl, who suddenly has become a controversial figure after a Sports Illustrated article written about the Bears' kicking competition.
The opening-day kicking job is now riding entirely on Pineiro's right foot as he tries to prevent the Bears from pursuing another free-agent kicker.
"I just gotta make all my kicks," Pineiro said. "With the whole kicking struggle from last year, they got us on thin ice here just try to make all my kicks and move forward."
Pineiro made 7 of 8 at his first practice Tuesday after the Bears cut his job competition, Elliott Fry. On Saturday in Indianapolis he'd like to make up for the missed 48-yard kick he had against the Carolina Panthers earlier this preseason.
Nagy said it's probably not beneficial for Pineiro to feel constant job pressure.
"It's understanding that it is a process, and it is important for whoever the kicker is, on any team, in my opinion, to feel like you're not out there kicking for your job on every kick," Nagy said.
Still, the pressure exists and it has been there for kickers since April, when offseason work and the kicker competition with nine combatants began. None of those nine remain now.
Fry came on board May 6 after the trade with Oakland for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
The entire process was the subject of the Sports Illustrated article. It trashed the Bears' process for finding a kicker, especially the nine-man competition in April. Nagy said he hadn't read the aticle but is satisfied with their elaborate process.
"I really do, I feel great," Nagy said. "I haven't seen the article or heard about it, but I think that, you know, I understand — we brought in a lot of kickers that came in here. To me, I look at it as a positive in the fact that we said we going to turn over every stone to find whoever's out there. We felt like we, at that point in time, when we brought in a bunch of kickers, we're going to test them all out and see what they can do.
"And then, within that time frame, we also put in some situations with the 'Augusta Silence' early on to see how they could handle it. Is it exactly the perfect science? I don't know that, maybe not."
The search fit a philosophy Nagy and GM Ryan Pace have.
"Ryan and I talk about no regrets, right?" Nagy said. "And we talk about it as a team, so at least we can look back and say we hopefully didn’t miss out on somebody."
The most damaging aspect of the article was an anonymous quote, said to be from one kicker, who complained about only kickers who'd been schooled by Kohl were even seriously considered. Kohl conducts kicking camps as his main business, and advises teams on the side.
Pineiro had worked some with Kohl before, and after working with him further he has seen benefits.
"My technique has gotten a lot better," Pineiro said. "I was working with Jamie Kohl, the kicking consultant, and the special-teams coach (Chris Tabor). We were working on my technique, which is the big thing, just my walk-off and my steps.
"Because they know I have the leg strength, so just trying to get my technique down pat. My field-goal steps from OTAs to now, I feel like I've improved a lot."
Pineiro's targeting seems to have improved.
"Just my right-hash steps, just lining up my target line, stuff like that, my walk-offs on my field goals," he said. "I've always had the leg strength. My power and my swing has always been good. Lining up my steps and doing little technique stuff that a lot of different kickers work on, Jamie Kohl has helped me out a lot with that."
Pineiro has been in this situation without a competitor on the roster with the Raiders after they cut Giorgio Tavecchio. Later they brought in veteran competition.
He thinks it will help.
"I think it will actually help, a positive thing," Pineiro said. "I get more reps, I get more 'team' reps and don't have to share kicks. I think it's going to help a lot."
Then again, he's always had someone to talk with when Fry was with the team and Chris Blewitt before that.
"I got plenty of people to talk to," Pineiro said.
It's better in this competition to be the last one left standing alone, on Sept. 5 against the Packers.