Bears celebrate ‘swaggiest kicker’ Eddy Pineiro, who shows he can keep job
Pineiro has the guts and leg strength required for all the intense moments that await him this season. He’s ready.
INDIANAPOLIS — Eddy Pineiro has the guts for this, and that’s half the equation as the Bears try to decide whether he’ll be their kicker for the upcoming season.
He’s bold — even brash, at times — and has been fearless about taking on the most fearful kicking situation in the NFL. He still has things to work on, but his confidence is game-ready.
That’ll be good for the Bears. They need some Miami-style swagger at kicker right about now, and Pineiro has it in his veins. Personality-wise, he’s closer to spunky Robbie Gould than he is to understated Cody Parkey.
In his first game since the Bears put him in the spotlight as the last kicker standing from an exhaustive offseason search, he blasted a 58-yard field goal dead center in the third quarter of their preseason game Saturday against the Colts. The Bears won 27-17 and left Lucas Oil Stadium feeling better than ever about the most nerve-racking question mark on their roster.
‘‘After that 58, I feel like I can compete with anybody,’’ Pineiro said. ‘‘I feel strong, and I feel ready to go.’’
Pineiro has the job to himself now that Elliott Fry is gone, and he filled out his night by making a 21-yard field goal shortly before halftime and all three extra points.
Pineiro pumped his fist and let out a roar after making the 58-yarder, and his teammates mobbed him on the sideline. There’s a sense that he’s one of the guys now, that the Bears have accepted him as part of the team.
‘‘What I thought was neat was seeing how excited and pumped up he was when he made that,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘What was even better was seeing the whole team surround him and fire him up and see that camaraderie.’’
The gesture meant a lot to Pineiro.
‘‘It was amazing,’’ he said. ‘‘I do it for them, and I do it for Chicago.’’
Pineiro expected something like this. He’s certain he would’ve won the job with the Raiders a year ago had he not suffered a groin injury in the preseason. He saw it as inevitable that someone would give him the chance he deserved. The Bears are glad — for now — that they were the ones.
Pineiro still has to withstand a rush of 10 or so kickers hitting waivers this week, but it looks increasingly likely he’ll be around for the regular-season opener Sept. 5 against the Packers.
He talked about being on ‘‘thin ice’’ as a Bears kicker in the aftermath of the double doink, but he said it without a hint of concern. He has been poised throughout this ordeal.
‘‘He’s one of the swaggiest kickers I’ve ever seen,’’ cornerback Prince Amukamara said. ‘‘Very, very confident.’’
When the Bears alternated days between him and Fry during training camp, Pineiro saw Fry wow the crowd in Bourbonnais with a 62-yarder. He showed up the next day and asked to kick one from 63. He made it with enough distance to probably clear 70.
The fans at camp chanted, ‘‘Ed-dy, Ed-dy, Ed-dy,’’ when Pineiro made the 63-yarder. He shrugged and strutted away. When asked about that scene after practice, he said it was nothing new. He heard those cheers from 90,000 strong at The Swamp when he kicked for the University of Florida.
The stakes are always higher in the pros, but kicking in the Southeastern Conference is as close as it gets in college. He set Florida’s school record by making 88.4 percent of his field goals, then turned pro after his junior year. Few kickers declare early.
A week into the competition against Fry, Pineiro went 12-for-12 at Soldier Field. He nailed one from 60 yards; Fry went wide right. He made a 48-yarder; Fry couldn’t.
Afterward, he said he didn’t really pay attention to how Fry kicked. When he heard that Nagy praised them both for coming a long way since organized team activities in the spring, Pineiro replied, ‘‘We didn’t do that bad in OTAs.’’
Imagine the bravado if he actually makes field goals when the season starts.
The more he talks and, more important, the more field goals he makes, the more it seems Pineiro is up for the pressure-packed kick ahead. Whether his mechanics are sound is another question, but it’s hard to see him buckling under the magnitude of the moment.