BOURBONNAIS — Elliott Fry’s two-word tattoo looks as through it’s pounded out by a typewriter. At the lower part of his left forearm, two inches from the bend in his elbow, sits the mantra, as if emblazoned on him: “One shot.”
At first glance, the phrase makes perfect sense for a kicker: one attempt, one game at a time. One opportunity to make the Bears, to win a kicking competition that dominated the offseason.
That’s all true. But the tattoo is more literal — it means pricking his finger to check his blood sugar, and then injecting insulin. Fry was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes — a disease in which the body fails to produce insulin — at age 7.
“Growing up with it, taking it one shot at a time,” he said, “I take, like, 10 shots a day. All over.”
His big shot started Friday, when he and Eddy Piñeiro, another kicker with no regular-season experience, began training camp. His big day came Saturday, when he made eight-straight kicks — including a 60-yarder — after hooking his first attempt, from 33 yards. As Fry’s miss tailed off, fans groaned. Then he got hot. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was going to end the Bears’ field goal drill when Fry asked specifically to try a 60-yarder.
“He was mentally strong enough to bounce back and make the rest of them,” head coach Matt Nagy said. “And then he put the cherry on top with the 60-yarder.”
Piñeiro will get his chance Sunday. The Bears are rotating kickers each day.
“Everybody knows that we gotta get this thing right,” Nagy said. “The kickers know that. We’ve been very honest with them on we’re going about this thing. …
“It’s on them. It’s not anybody else but them to make it, and produce. And he had a good day.”
The Bears would like one of their two kickers to get a stranglehold on the job. Their salaries are low, and Cody Parkey’s contract carries a $4.06 million cap hit. If they fail, the Bears will explore the waiver wire and trades.
Piñeiro has been in a similar situation before. When he began his career at Florida in 2016, he replaced a Gators kicker who’d gone 5-for-14 the year before. The Gators were so frustrated with the misses they held open tryouts in the middle of the 2015 season.
Piñeiro made 21-of-25 field goals and all 32 extra points in first season.
“I felt the exact same way I feel right now,” Piñeiro said. “At Florida they had literally the worst guy. I came in and the fans and everybody, they were going crazy, and the attention was on the kickers.
“I feel like I performed well there, and I have to come back and do it here.”
Neither shies away from the competition. Fry beat out four players at South Carolina to earn the starting job. This spring, he beat out another kicker to make the Orlando Apollos of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.
“Nobody in this situation or in this league has gotten here without having to face competition,” he said.
The kickers are pushed into closer quarters on campus. But the two, who met long before either put on the wishbone C, remain friendly.
“We’re adults about it,” Fry said.
Piñeiro, for whom the Bears gave the Raiders a conditional seventh-round pick in May, said — with a straight face — that he hopes Fry makes every kick.
“Chicago’s not going to go wrong with either me or Elliott,” he said. “We’re both going to play in the NFL for a long time, and we’re both good kickers.”
Camp is the time to prove it.
“You can feel every kick,” Piñeiro said. “Even the warm-up kicks, every kick is meaningful.”