Unfazed, place-kicker Eddy Pineiro’s future could be on the line in Bears’ final 3 games
It’s been an up-and-down first season for Pineiro. How he kicks in bad weather with the Bears’ playoff hopes at stake could say a lot about his job security going for 2020.
It has been a series of new experiences for Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro, good and bad, but he has never faced anything like what lies ahead.
With his team fighting for the playoffs, he’ll kick in the coldest weather of his life Sunday at Green Bay, then come home for what’s scheduled to be a nationally televised night game against the Chiefs. If everything goes well for the Bears, he’ll be kicking to save the season in the finale at Minnesota.
“No pressure, Eddy,” muttered offensive lineman Ted Larsen, his locker neighbor.
There’s more pressure than that. Amid the potentially high-stakes gauntlet, his performance will have a substantial impact on his future with the Bears. If he struggles, there could be an open competition next spring.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Pineiro said. “I’m just trying to make as many kicks as I can.”
That’s an obvious answer, but it illustrates one of Pineiro’s best attributes. He’s uncommonly realistic for a 24-year-old in his first NFL season. He’s the youngest and least experienced kicker the Bears have had since Robbie Gould’s rookie year, but he doesn’t talk like it.
He’s comfortable with a kicker’s life, an existence in which a player can go from beloved to hated to unemployed faster than you can say “double doink.”
When Pineiro beat out Elliott Fry in August, he made the point that it’d last only as long as he kept making kicks. After he opened the season as the Bears’ kicker and blasted a 53-yarder in the last second to beat the Broncos, he had no misgivings about job security.
“I never feel settled,” he said. “Even after hitting a game-winner, I never felt settled.”
Pineiro knows all about Cody Parkey’s ill-fated saga and endured his own upheaval with the Raiders. He said they told him he’d be their guy for the next 10 years, only to flip him to the Bears for a seventh-round pick months later.
He became an overnight celebrity after the wild finish in Denver, then his stock slipped when he missed a 41-yarder at the end of the loss to the Chargers. That began a five-game stretch in which he missed four field goals and two extra points.
Pineiro pulled out of that slump by going 9-for-9 on field goals and extra points combined the last two weeks, and special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor is convinced that he’s unburdened by the weight of the next three games.
“He hit a little bit of a lull there and that became the story again, and he shot right out of that,” Tabor said. “He’s kicking the ball well, he has great confidence and this will be another challenge for him. I think he’s going to do great, I really do.”
Likewise, Pineiro was heartened by his resurgence and believes it’ll help him down the stretch.
“I’ve gotten mentally stronger,” he said. “Hitting a game-winner in Week 2, then you’re up here and you’re down there — it’s all a learning experience.”
As for the physical aspect of kicking at Lambeau Field, where the forecast calls for a high of 19 degrees, Pineiro has been working on cold-weather technique this week. It’s all new to a guy who grew up in South Florida.
He has picked up various tactics throughout the season, beginning with what he described as the coldest he has ever been when the Bears hosted the Saints in 54 degrees. He loads up with layers and starts warming up on the sideline earlier whenever the Bears begin approaching a potential field goal.
Under the guidance of Tabor and kicking consultant Jamie Kohl, Pineiro practiced line drives that cut the wind and got accustomed to the ball not traveling as far. It’s not ideal, but he embraces the high degree of difficulty.
“It’s what we do,” he said. “You get used to it. It’s all fun.”