Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro embraces nightmare of kicking at Soldier Field
It’s the worst place to kick in the NFL, and it’s not going to get better in November and December. But Pineiro is ready for it.
Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro has been trekking down to practice at Soldier Field before every home game, trying to figure out the wind pattern inside the stadium.
The trouble is, there isn’t one.
Pineiro practiced there Oct. 18 and thought he had a handle on it, only to show up for the game Sunday against the Saints to find the wind swirling in the opposite direction.
Soldier Field is every kicker’s nightmare, and it’s going to get worse in the second half of the season. But Pineiro sees it as a badge of honor.
‘‘I know that this will be the hardest place to kick, so if I can kick here, I can kick in any other stadium,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a big confidence-booster.’’
He has managed it well and brought peace to what had been a stressful position for the Bears. Pineiro has made 9 of 10 field-goal attempts and all 11 of his extra-point tries this season, and he hasn’t missed in eight kicks at Soldier Field.
The Bears aren’t even halfway through the season, and he already has had an eventful year. After winning a training-camp battle for the job, he went into final cuts not knowing whether he had make the team. He kicked a game-winning 53-yard field goal in Week 2 against the Broncos, then suffered a pinched nerve in his knee that disrupted his preparation for weeks.
That’s a lot for a 24-year-old in his first NFL season, but he never seems rattled.
‘‘I mean, who knows where his career ends up in the end, but that kick in Denver — it’s amazing how life works and how that can help somebody confidence-wise,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘[I] just like where he’s at, and I haven’t done a whole lot. I’ve just kind of stayed away. And maybe, hopefully, that’s a good thing.’’
Pineiro’s next test will be the deteriorating weather. It’s especially interesting, given that he was born and raised in South Florida, kicked for Florida in the Southeastern Conference and spent a preseason with the Raiders in Oakland before the Bears traded for him.
With that background, he said Sunday against the Saints was ‘‘probably the coldest, windiest game I’ve kicked in.’’ It was 54 degrees with a 6 mph breeze.
Fortunately for Pineiro, the forecast calls for 58 degrees and sunny skies for the game Sunday against the Chargers.
That’s downright tropical compared to what awaits him. Can he survive Chicago’s winter?
‘‘That’s a very valid question,’’ special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. ‘‘I’m going to give you a bad answer: You don’t know until you’re there.’’