I have often referred to the Chicago Bears’ quest to find a replacement for Cody Parkey as a kicking carnival. Because much like a carnival, faces come and go, but the show is the same. But now that one of the contestants has dished out details of the competition, it’s clear that the Bears (and the kickers in camp) are taking things quite seriously.
Alex Kjellsten was one of the punters brought in by the Bears for their expansive rookie minicamp, which included eight (!) place-kickers. And after signing with the New Orleans Saints, Kjellsten discussed his experience during the Bears’ kicking camp in an interview with the New Orleans Advocate. Kjellsten shared a peek at what it was like at Halas Hall, describing the ordeal as a kicking-centric version of the league’s Scouting Combine. And at the end of practice, the Bears dialed up the drama.
“They had all the kickers line up, and everyone was standing on the 50-yard-line. It was silent, like you could have heard a pin drop,” Kjellsten explained. “Every kick held a lot of weight — even if you made the kick, if the ball wasn’t rotating the right way or if it knocked off the upright and then went in, it was no good to them.”
If kicking for your next gig isn’t enough, Kjellsten and the others were doing so while facing manufactured pressure in an already over-dramatic situation. Because if you can’t try ’em out at Soldier Field in front of 60,000 fans in January, you might as well try ’em out by cooking up an exaggerated audition.
In addition to the try from 43-yards out (which got off to an inauspicious start), the Bears were measuring things such as kick apex and ball rotation as part of an extensive charting process that included technology linked to the goal post. Some of these details Kjellsten talked about seem like fresh ideas, which could be possibly linked to Jamie Kohl’s influence as the team’s new kicking consultant. After all, the no stone left un-turned concept shouldn’t be limited to finding the guys kicking the ball. It was obvious that an overhaul of how the team analyzed the position was needed, too.
It’s only mid-May, but the Bears’ search for a kicker has taken us for a wild ride. And to think, this could be just the beginning.