Eddy Pineiro celebrated making the Bears by doing what the last kicker wouldn’t until midseason: He practiced at Soldier Field.
After making the Bears’ 53-man roster, Pineiro drove to the stadium on Sunday morning to take aim between its goalposts — and at the cloud that has hung over the position since Cody Parkey double-doinked a 43-yard field goal in the playoffs eight months ago.
“It’s not like every other place,” Pineiro said. “You just have to be mentally strong. Block the media, block the fans, block everything out and just make kicks.”
Were it that easy, the Bears wouldn’t have stumbled through a nine-man kicker derby during rookie minicamp. They traded a conditional seventh-round pick for Pineiro the next day. He outlasted Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry — and, on Sunday, the opportunity cost of a waiver pickup or trade.
Coach Matt Nagy said Sunday what he wouldn’t after the preseason finale — that Pineiro would kick Thursday against the Packers.
“We feel like he’s certainly earned it,” Nagy said. “We put him — he made it — through a lot of mental challenges, physical challenges, working through the highs and lows.”
Pineiro made eight of his last nine preseason kicks, but the miss was a doozy — he shanked an extra point Thursday.
“He missed it to the left there pretty good,” Nagy said. “But he rebounded. . . . You want everybody to be perfect. Is that going to happen, realistically? Probably not. How do I balance it and how do we balance it as a staff as we move forward? It’ll be fun to watch. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.
“But he deserves it. He earned every right to be our kicker. And we feel good about it.”
Nagy needs to be patient with Pineiro, who has never kicked in a regular-season game.
“In the end, for all of us, it’s about production,” Nagy said. “When are those [misses] coming? How often are they coming?
“And he knows that. We’re real with him. We’re honest with him. But we try not to think of the glass-half-empty type of deal.”
The Bears always have loved Pineiro’s confidence. It soared even higher Friday, when special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor told him he’d made the team.
“They just told me, ‘Hey, this organization believes in you,’ ” he said. “ ‘You’ve been kicking well. You deserve it.’ . . .
“I’m excited, confident. I’m happy that they chose me to be the guy. I just have to prove them right, show them that I’m the guy and just keep making kicks.”
He celebrated by taking his dad, who was visiting from out of town, out for Cuban food downtown. His next trip downtown was all business — he looked for target points, or places to aim, and played the gusts Sunday morning.
“It was a little windy out there, which is good,” Pineiro said. “Just adjusting to the wind — and the grass and the field.”
He felt, more than ever, like the Bears’ starting kicker.
“I think a lot of it’s mental,” he said. “Especially playing in a place like this, you have to be mentally strong.”
After surviving the Bears’ kicker derby, he’s no stranger to pressure.
“It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “I’m excited to be the guy. And this organization believes in me, giving me a shot to be where I’m at. I just want to make them happy.”