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Bulked up and back home, Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro ready for competition

Two or three times a week, Eddy Pineiro meets up there with Bears punter Pat O’Donnell, who lives about an hour away.

Eddy Pineiro went 23-for-28 on field goals in his first season as the Bears’ kicker.
Eddy Pineiro went 23-for-28 on field goals in his first season as the Bears’ kicker.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Warm winds shoot off the spaghetti bowl of highway inter-changes in the Allapattah neigh-borhood of Miami, across the sports complex and into the football stadium at Moore Park.

Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro chose to train there because, of all the fields in his hometown, the breeze most reminds him of Soldier Field.

“It’s probably the most windiest park,” he said.

Two or three times a week, Pineiro meets up with Bears punter Pat O’Donnell, who lives about an hour away. Before they kick, they replicate a practice plan — something that, because of the coronavirus, they haven’t been able do at Halas Hall.

“Me and Pat don’t just go in and just kick some balls,” Pineiro said in a video chat Tuesday. “We kind of have a set game plan. Like, ‘OK, we’re going to do this. Last-second field goal at the end of practice.’ Or, ‘We’re going to manipulate the wind or hit the ball this way for it to go this way.’ . . .

“We’re going to kick more kicks on the left hash and kick more kicks on the right hash, just different scenarios. We try to put ourselves in the most in-game, real situations as we possibly can.”

Last offseason, Pineiro was trying to navigate through “Augusta Silence,” the Bears’ term for the entire team trying to ice him by not saying anything at all. This time, it’s baked into his workout in front of an audience of one. Sundays in the fall will feel the same, presuming NFL stadiums stay empty.

“If that does happen, I think I’ll be ready for it,” Pineiro said. “Because we did a lot of that last year, we probably will do a lot of that this year, too.”

Pineiro said at the end of his first season with the team that he expected competition this offseason, and he was right. In April, the Bears signed Ramiz Ahmed, who kicked at Nevada but spent last season unaffiliated with any pro team.

“For Eddy, specifically, it’s going to be good,” coach Matt Nagy said. “We always want competition. Any time somebody feels like they just have a spot locked in for certain reasons, then I don’t know how great that is.”

A remote competition is a different feeling from last year, when Pineiro and Elliott Fry entered training camp in an open competition for the job. The Bears — and fans — evaluated every kick.

“I haven’t gotten to know [Ahmed],” Pineiro said. “We’ve done a couple of Zoom meetings together. But as far as them signing him, I obviously expected it. Everybody has to compete. That’s just part of that.”

Pineiro — who’s up to 187 pounds after adding eight pounds of muscle at the Bears’ suggestion — will benefit from a full season of experience. He went 23-for-28 last year on field goals and made all but two of his 29 extra-point attempts.

“My biggest struggle was going from a windy game right in Chicago and then going and playing in a dome in Detroit,” he said. “Getting focused on the little things was the biggest thing for me. That was probably the biggest learning experience, was going from a windy game in 30 mph winds and then playing in a dome.”

This offseason, though, presents a different kind of transition.

“I love the way that he handled last year,” Nagy said. “It wasn’t easy. And we tried that on purpose with the kicking challenges and competitions that we had. But he pulled through that. To us, that’s the silver lining.

“At the same time, let’s make sure that he understands and we understand that the more pressure situations, the more experience that he gets, it’ll help us and help him down the road.”