The drive from Halas Hall to Soldier Field and back takes approximately 80 miles, but kicker Cody Parkey enjoys it. It includes the conversations in his carpool.
“We put the pressure on new people each week to come up with some topics,” Parkey said. “But it’s fun, it’s a good time, and I’m enjoying it.”
But it’s a drive that Parkey called “strictly business.” He needed it during the practice week before home games to improve on his turf.
But there are intangible benefits for a kicker who wants to focus on the positives during a season that Parkey described as having its “ups and downs.” It helps to be on the road with his guys: punter Pat O’Donnell and long snapper Patrick Scales.
“Make, miss, whatever is going on in my life, they’ve been there for me,” Parkey said. “It’s awesome to have guys like that who you can relate to on and off the field.”
The Bears need Parkey to be “awesome” this postseason, starting Sunday against the Eagles at Soldier Field. Robbie Gould isn’t returning to the save the day. No kicker is. The Bears will count on Parkey to be the confident, strong-legged kicker they believe they signed in March to a four-year, $15 million contract.
“Every game is a new season, honestly,” Parkey said Tuesday.
After Parkey missed his third extra point this season in the Bears’ 24-10 victory against the Vikings — his fifth kick to hit the uprights this season — coach Matt Nagy said “other parts” were at fault. Scales’ snap was high, but O’Donnell appeared to get the ball in place for Parkey quickly enough.
But Nagy’s stance had purpose. He wanted to protect Parkey, who is under fire for his 10-miss regular season. He went 23-for-30 on field goals, including missing a potential 47-yard game-winner against the Dolphins, his former team. Among qualified kickers, Parkey’s 76.7 field-goal percentage ranked 28th in the league. He has gone 42-for-45 on point-after attempts.
“You calculate all the times I’ve kicked the ball this year, including extra points, which are 33-yard field goals essentially, I’ve kicked at 87 percent,” Parkey said. “It’s easy to look at and be like, ‘Oh, he’s done terrible this year.’ But I’ve kicked at 87 percent, which by no means is terrible, [although] it’s not where I want to be.
“I look at the positives every game, if I do bad [or] if I do good. That’s why I’m able to stand here in front of you today, five years into the NFL, still kicking.”
Nagy’s belief in Parkey looked dubious after Parkey missed two field goals and two extra points by hitting the uprights on all four kicks in the Bears’ 34-22 victory against the Lions in Week 10.
The next week, during the Bears’ 25-20 victory against the Vikings, Parkey made 33-, 41- and 48-yard field goals. But Nagy also went for two twice after touchdowns and was successful on both.
Parkey said that neither Nagy nor special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor changed his approach with him this season. He appreciated that tact.
“They believe in me,” Parkey said. “[But] it’s not like every day they make sure to tell me they believe in me. If I go 10-for-10 or if I go 0-for-10, nothing changes in them and their attitude towards me, which is huge.
“Because whether I make a kick or miss a kick, I don’t want you to be able to tell how I live my lifestyle. I want to be even-keeled all the time. They’re the same way. That kind of brushes off, and that gives me good vibes.”
The long drives to and from Soldier Field for practice have helped.
“[It’s] camaraderie,” Parkey said. “Every week we do it. We just keep chopping wood and try to master it.”