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Bears put kicker Eddy Pineiro on injured reserve; Cairo Santos to kick vs. Lions

Pineiro missed the preseason with a groin injury and now must sit the first three games as the Bears utilize a new IR rule.

Pineiro did not kick in training camp and will miss the first three games.
For the Sun-Times

The Bears always seem stuck in kicker drama, and they’re back there again as they head into the season opener.

They will go without Eddy Pineiro, who missed preseason practices with a groin injury and went on injured reserve Tuesday. That means he will miss at least the first three games and the Bears almost certainly will add Cairo Santos from their practice squad to kick against the Lions on Sunday.

The Bears signed former Saints defensive lineman Mario Edwards to fill Pineiro’s spot on the roster and will need to make another move to accommodate Santos.

Pineiro going on injured reserve isn’t as calamitous as it sounds. Because of coronavirus concerns, the NFL is allowing teams unlimited use of short-term IR this season with a minimum stay of three weeks.

Another pandemic-related rule allows teams to protect up to four practice-squad players from getting released. The Bears protected Santos, running back Artavis Pierce, guard Jamon Brown and quarterback Tyler Bray this week.

Pineiro, who made 23 of 28 field goals in his choppy debut season, is eligible to return for the Oct. 4 game against the Colts.

Until then, it likely will be Santos. And that could get interesting.

Santos got his career off to a solid start with the Chiefs from 2014 through ’16, making an impression on then-assistant coach Matt Nagy by connecting on 84.3% of his field-goal tries.

“I just remember thinking that whole time that we were there, there was no concern at all whenever he was out there,” Nagy said. “There was a lot of confidence in him.”

But then Santos went on IR with a groin injury early in 2017, and he hasn’t been a full-time kicker since.

Santos played for six teams over the last three seasons and made just 68.8% of his kicks. That included a five-month, offseason-only stay with the Jets in 2018 and a haphazard stint with the Bears in ’17. Santos kicked two field goals for the Bears against the Eagles, hitting from 38 yards and missing from 54, then hurt his groin in warmups the next week.

Santos’ most recent opportunity was a debacle. The Titans picked him up last September when Ryan Succop went on IR and cut him a month later after he went 0-for-4, including a blocked try, in a 14-7 loss to the Bills. They released him the next day and signed Cody Parkey.

Parkey, of course, was supposed to end the Bears’ carousel of kickers, but he made a career-low 76.7% in 2018 after signing a four-year, $15 million contract and had his game-winning attempt in the wild-card game against the Eagles tipped at the line for the infamous “Double Doink.”

Since dumping Robbie Gould in 2016, the Bears have tried five kickers. They have the NFL’s third-worst field-goal percentage (77.7) during that span.

For Pineiro, it’s another twist in his already wild career and the third time in three seasons he has had injury issues.

He believed he was winning the Raiders’ kicking job as an undrafted rookie out of Florida in 2018 but suffered a season-ending groin injury in the preseason.

Last year, after nailing a 53-yarder to beat the Broncos as time expired, he hurt his knee in the weight room. He played through it, but it affected him for weeks. The Bears had punter Pat O’Donnell handle kickoffs.

Pineiro said he was feeling better by midseason, but that’s when he slid into a costly slump. In a four-game stretch beginning in late October, Pineiro went 3-for-7 on field goals and missed an extra point. He hooked a field-goal try wide left in the final seconds of a 17-16 loss to the Chargers after a miscommunication about the hashmarks that was partly Nagy’s fault.

Not that anyone in Chicago needs reminding of it, but kicker misadventures have been the norm for some time. And now the Bears are betting on Santos to straighten them out.