Bears cut two kickers after dramatic final day of eight-man derby

SHARE Bears cut two kickers after dramatic final day of eight-man derby

Purdue kicker Spencer Evans, right, tried out fo the Bears. | AP photo

For the third consecutive day, Bears coach Matt Nagy lined his players down the 50-yard line Sunday. This time, he gave them a rooting interest.

Redford Jones, the first kicker the Bears signed after Cody Parkey’s double-doink miss in the playoffs, represented the offense. Casey Bednarski, the Minnesota State-Mankato rookie whose strong leg and shoulder-length blond hair made him a standout tryout player at the Bears’ rookie minicamp, was kicking for the defense.

Bednarski made a 32-yarder. Jones did, too.

They backed up. Each made kicks from 43 yards, the distance of Parkey’s playoff miss.

At midfield, position players — who didn’t know the kickers’ names — began shouting out their jersey numbers, wanting to avoid punishment if their guy missed.

Then one did. Bednarski made a 48-yarder. When Jones pushed his left, Bednarski celebrated by doing a standing backflip, surrounded by his new best friends on the defense.

‘‘I looked out of the corner of my eye and said, ‘Did he just do that?’ ’’ Nagy said.

Jones, meanwhile, stood in the middle of a circle of offensive players and watched them do 25 up-downs, spiking themselves into the ground and jumping back up as punishment for his miss. Thusly shamed, Jones apologized to them after practice. The Bears didn’t make him available to the media, and they cut him by dinnertime.

They also waived John Baron II, a left-footed kicker from San Diego State they had added as an undrafted free agent Thursday.

When the Bears began their eight-man kicking derby Friday — with four rostered players and four tryout guys — they said they wanted to manufacture pressure. Cutting someone who missed the final kick on the last day of rookie minicamp certainly qualifies.


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‘‘The kickers are the ones out there right now that are getting all the heat,’’ Nagy said moments after practice ended. ‘‘And they’re the ones we’re creating pressure for.’’

That will change once the Bears put on pads. For now, all eyes will be on the remaining two kickers set to participate in organized team activities this month: Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry.

The Bears didn’t immediately add either of their tryout standouts: Purdue alum Spencer Evans, who was the only kicker to make kicks in front of the full team Friday and Saturday, and Bednarski.

New kicking consultant Jamie Kohl helped chart every make and miss but also used electronics to measure trajectory and ball speed. That became particularly important on a windy Sunday, when special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor reminded players of the challenges awaiting them — if they were lucky — at Soldier Field.

‘‘There’s going to be wind,’’ Fry said. ‘‘The grass isn’t always going to be perfect. I think he said: ‘This is not an Augusta fairway.’ ’’

The Bears wanted to squeeze each kicker with game-like pressure. Many already knew the stakes. After leaving Pittsburgh as its all-time leading scorer in 2016, Blewitt worked at Home Depot for a year. He then moved home to the Washington area to live with his parents and used the money he saved to fly to kicking camps around the country.

‘‘I actually haven’t heard of anything like eight guys in a minicamp; that’s a little much,’’ said Blewitt, who was the only kicker in the Steelers’ rookie camp two years ago. ‘‘This whole situation, it was fun, though.’’

It was rooted in pain. When minicamp started, Nagy showed the team film of how the Bears’ 2018 season ended.

‘‘No elephant in the room,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘This is where we’re at. This is what happened last year. This is gone now. . . . So now if you’re a kicker and you’re in the room, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. If you’re a player or coach in the room, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. So let’s go test it out.’’

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