The Bears finished their offseason program the way they started it — by putting pressure on their kickers.
But instead of the eight who overran rookie minicamp in early May, only two lined up for a 40-yard kick Thursday at the Bears’ last mandatory minicamp practice.
If Eddy Pineiro or Elliott Fry missed his chip shot, their teammates would be forced to run through half the Bears’ standard conditioning drill.
Make them, though, and the team got to break early for the summer.
“We put a little heat — shocking — on the kickers,” coach Matt Nagy said.
Both split the uprights.
“Being able to not run was definitely good,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said.
Nagy blew his whistle, and practice was over.
“It was a win for them,” Nagy said.
It was a positive finish to a bizarre, inconsistent six-week derby. Only one of the four kickers on the Bears’ active roster at the start of rookie minicamp remains.
The Bears were discouraged enough during the rookie camp that they traded for Pineiro the day after it ended. Just Tuesday, all three kickers on the roster missed a 42-yarder in practice. The Bears cut Chris Blewitt hours later.
“It’s very important just because, like a few days ago when we were 0-for-3 out there, there was a little bit of a lull — you could feel it,” Nagy said. “But that’s just part of us trying to grow and figure out where we’re at and what we need to do.
“Being able to respond to adversity, I want to give those kickers credit. We’re always going to get on them when they miss, but they made them the last couple of days with pressure situations.
“We didn’t change it. Matter of fact, we made it tougher, and they came through and executed.”
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks sees the value in starting vacation after two makes.
“So those guys putting it through the uprights on the last day, I think that [Nagy] made it a focus on purpose,” Hicks said. “So that’s in their mindset when they go into the offseason. And it’s also in our mindset, and building faith in our kickers.”
Neither of the Bears’ kickers has ever played in a regular-season game. Until they do — or unless the Bears bring in a veteran — faith will be all the team has to hold on to.
“We got to make the kicks — it’s pretty simple,” Hicks said. “I mean, we have a little fanfare to it right now, and there’s a little competition. And we’re looking for the best kicker — the best person to put it through the uprights — and that’s all we’re doing at the moment.’’
Cornerback Prince Amukamara understands why the Bears spent the offseason cycling through kickers. It was obvious, he said, that they needed to improve upon Cody Parkey’s ugly season, which ended with a double-doink in the playoff loss to the Eagles.
“I try to look at it myself,” Amukamara said. “If I’m a guy who’s getting beaten every game, all throughout the game, and then it’s one of the last plays, and I get beaten again? Yeah, DB or the right cornerback is a spot we need to get better at.”
The Bears haven’t gotten there yet.
But for one day at least, their kickers ended on an upswing.
“I think heading into our summer, we like where we’re at,” Nagy said. “But we’re always going to collaborate and make sure at every position that we’re doing what we need to do.”