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Pressure’s on Bears’ kickers: ‘It’s for real now’

Chris Tabor is usually gregarious. On Thursday, he was serious.

Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor talks with coaches during OTAs in June.
AP Photos

BOURBONNAIS — Chris Tabor is usually gregarious.

On Thursday, he was serious.

Meeting the media after practice, the Bears’ special-teams coordinator made sure his tone fit the moment. Before the end of training camp, he will team with coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace (but not kicking consultant Jamie Kohl, he stressed) to choose a kicker. He’ll pick between Eddy Pineiro, Elliott Fry and whoever might be on the market.

“I know that when you go through this process, there are growing pains,” Tabor said in what likely will be his last public comments before Week 1. “And we’ve experienced that. And we’re still experiencing it.

“But they’re stepping up to it. It’s for real now. This isn’t OTAs where, ‘Hey, you miss some and let’s go tweak a few things.’ This is, ‘I need to make my kicks.’

“Days are limited. Games are limited. And we’re going to still play on Thursday night against Green Bay, and we’re going to need a kicker.”

Both Pineiro and Fry have been sharp in training camp, but the Bears are a long way from an answer.

“I mean, to a man, OTA performance wasn’t good enough,” Tabor said. “And they understand that. And we’re out front with that. And they’re performing.”

In a surprise, Thursday was Pineiro’s turn.

The Bears said at the start of camp they planned to alternate kickers each practice, but the Bears skipped over Fry on Thursday even though it was his turn.

Tabor had his reasons for the move, he said, but kept them to himself.

“Why not? Because that’s how it’s going to be,” he said. “There’s going to be some days where a guy has to go back-to-back days, and I want to rotate that properly.”

Pineiro made the most of his chance, making 8 of 9 kicks. The only miss, of course, was a doink.

Only the fancy goalposts look like Ys. The rest of them — like the rolling set the Bears used for the particular drill — look like Hs. Pineiro’s 55-yard try, with the wind at his back, hit the pad on the lower right-hand leg of the H and fell to the ground.

“I just thought he got underneath it a little bit . . . ” Tabor said. “So to speak, a little chunky on the deal.”

It was enough, though, to earn Pineiro a “dealer’s choice” kick. He moved back for a 60-yard kick and made it.

“They’re attacking each and every day, one at a time,” Tabor said. “So I’ve been pleased with that. The nice thing is, when a guy is successful, it puts more pressure on the other guy, and he’s been responding. Now the ball will bounce over to Elliott’s side.’’

Both will kick during Family Fest on Saturday night at Soldier Field. The Bears have a plan for their first preseason game Thursday against the Panthers but are staying mum about it.

The two kickers are about even, Tabor said. While the Bears would prefer one of them to run away with the gig, a close race has its benefits.

“Their job is to make our job tough,” Tabor said. “That’s what you want. So if it comes down to it, that’s a good thing.”

Until then, he’ll be watching — and listening — to the fans and players during practice. Thunderous applause after made kicks imply an unexpected result, he said. The coach would prefer a more subdued reaction — say, a golf clap.

“If you get it to that, that means they expect you to make it,” he said. “So that’s what we’re trying to get to.”