The Chicago Bears’ kicking competition has shifted from Bourbonnais to Halas Hall, and no one has taken the lead just yet.
“They have been even,” Head Coach Matt Nagy said, via the Bears’ official website. “I think they both missed kicks (Tuesday). It’s rare that kickers make every single kick that they take. But there’s a balance; you have to understand that. The preseason is going to be a time for us to really evaluate those kicks and weight them.”
I didn’t necessarily expect the Bears to have a winner in their kicking competition 19 days after training camp opened. HOWEVER, my hope was that either Eddy Piñeiro or Elliott Fry would have done enough to be a clear and concise favorite. Instead, both have kicked just well enough to keep the competition wide open, without inspiring a ton of definite confidence. I suppose things could be worse. For example, the Bears could be the Jets, a team that allowed a Pro Bowl kicker to walk away in free agency and watched his replacement retire after one preseason game. Even still … the Bears are basically in no different of a place today than they were when camp started.
Both kickers might be “even” to this point, but eventually something has to give. After all, the team is not going into September 5 with two kickers on its roster. Something will have to tip the scales one way or another. Perhaps the winner of the mental battle will emerge as triumphant in the grand scheme of things. And while I’m not sure whom that’ll be, answers to a question posed in a piece by the Chicago Tribune’s Dan Wiederer could give us a hint.
When asked if job security was leading to stress in the competition, Fry responded: “That’s with every kicking situation, not just the Bears. If you don’t perform, they’re going to look elsewhere. So you just have to focus on your kicks. If you can make your kicks when they count, if you have a really good preseason, it’s going to be hard for them to turn you away.”
As someone whose mother drilled into his head not to worry about things out of your control, I can vibe with Fry’s angle. This is a good mindset to have for a Bears kicker. Take a narrow, tunnel-vision approach to your goal of making the team and let the chips fall where they may. Because if Fry kicks well this summer and the Bears go in a different direction, Fry will eventually get looks elsewhere.
When given the same question, Piñeiro’s response was quite different: “It can be a little exhausting. Every day you feel like, ‘Oh damn, if I miss this kick, am I going to get cut? Are they going to trade for somebody else?’ It does get annoying. But I can’t control any of that.”
Credit Piñeiro for giving an honest answer and not some sort of stock response. However, I don’t love that it’s in his head this much. The guy with enough swagger to be bold enough to ask for Tim Tebow’s number while at Florida should have enough confidence to be above the noise beneath him.
Kicking well at Soldier Field is as much of a mental game as it is physical. Both kickers have shown in camp that each has the physical tools to get it done. It’s just that it might take an extra push to get one over the hump.