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A Gould Record: Bears kicker closes in on ‘something special’

When you’re on the same list as Walter Payton, it means something. It’s beyond significant. That’s the message former Bears kicker Kevin Butler said he has tried to impress upon Robbie Gould, who is on the verge of making history.

“He’s representing one of the best franchises in professional sports and certainly in football,” Butler told the Sun-Times. “And when you can have your name at the top of any list that has Walter Payton on it, you’ve got something special.”

Butler believes Gould will lead that list Sunday. He sees his run as the franchise’s all-time leader in points scored coming to an end when the Bears face the Chiefs.

Gould needs five points to surpass Butler’s mark of 1,116 career points. Butler broke Payton’s mark of 750 on Oct. 4, 1992 in Minnesota with a 50-yard field goal, and he built on that record until 1995.

“It means a lot to me, but it means more to me to have Robbie break it because I know what it has taken to get to that point, and I know what it means to him as a player,” Butler said.

“I am certainly anticipating him breaking it in Kansas City, and it will be proud moment for him. He’s earned it.”

Long time coming

All Gould needed was a new contract. If he got it from the Bears, Butler knew his record was done with. Gould is just too consistent and too driven to think otherwise.

“You always knew that he certainly had the ability to break that kind of record,” Butler said.

Gould got that deal — a four-year extension worth $15 million — from former general manager Phil Emery two days after Christmas in 2013. And he’s been chasing Butler ever since.

Gould and Butler have become friends over the years. They play golf together and talk often, Butler said. Gould invites Butler to take part in his charity events.

“I really appreciate him including me,” Butler said.

When Butler’s son Drew, a punter, was with the Bears in 2014, Gould hosted him and his wife for Easter. Drew Butler is now the Cardinals’ punter.

“That just shows what type of person he is,” Kevin Butler said. “He’s been a good mentor to my son who is in the NFL. Robbie was right there.”

So consider Butler a big fan of Gould.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Robbie to do what he’s done in his career at Chicago,” Butler said. “He’s just been consistent to a new level.”

Conditioned for success

Gould already is in the history books. He’s the franchise leader with 252 field goals, and he’s currently the seventh most accurate kicker in NFL history at 86.0 percent (252-for-293).

“If he misses one, you’re shocked,” said linebacker Shea McClellin, a teammate for four seasons. “He’s so automatic. He’s been very reliable.”

According to those that work with him, one of the most impressive aspects of Gould’s success is that he’s done so well at Soldier Field, where the elements are a factor and the footing can be questionable.

Gould has made 130 of 154 attempts and missed just one extra point in 196 attempts at Soldier Field since 2005.

“A 49-yard kick to win games in that kind of wind — that’s some kind of pressure,” said quarterback Jay Cutler of Gould’s winning kick against the Raiders for the Bears’ first win. “He doesn’t flinch. He goes out there each and every week in some of the toughest conditions and our field — I’m not going to get into the field — but our field isn’t in top shape and for him to go out there and do what he does, it’s impressive to say the least.”

Special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers describes Gould as the “consummate pro” and said what he has accomplished at Soldier Field is “beyond impressive.”

“Guys that can do what he does in those adverse situations, it just shows you how challenging that job can be and how easy he makes it on himself by being successful,” Rodgers said.

Butler, of course, understands the difficulties of kicking on the lakefront.

“The bottom line is that his consistency in that environment really ranks among the top of the NFL,” Butler said. “It’s just uncanny.”

A growing record

Former long snapper Patrick Mannelly fears for his own record. He believes his 231 games played in a Bears uniform could be broken by Gould, who has appeared in 154. Mannelly knows how well Gould, 33, takes care of himself and how driven he is.

“He’s not going to be able to boom it out of the end zone forever, but as long as you’re making those field goals and making those new PATs, he can play,” Mannelly said. “I’m kind of scared he’s going to break my record. I think he’s going to play through 40 years old.”

The headline-grabbing struggles of kickers have shown how valuable Gould is. There were 18 missed field goals in Week 4. There also have been 17 extra points missed after they were moved back to 33 yards. Kickers have said they’ve changed their approach to PATs.

“But it’s not going to change Robbie,” Mannelly said. “He approaches every kick, whether it’s a PAT, 30-yarder, 40-yarder or a 50-yarder the same way. That’s what makes him great.”

The same is true after misses.

“He knows misses are part of the program and he’ll make his next 10 in a row,” Mannelly said. “I just know when he runs out there for a kick, he believes he’s going to make every one.”

There’s a certain swagger to Gould. It’s unmistakable. He teammates see it and like it. It was evident last week when he likened himself to Michael Jordan after he beat Oakland.

“You don’t want a guy out there in a pressure situation that doesn’t believe in himself,” Mannelly said. “You look at golfers. You look at shooters. You want some swagger in them.”

That’s Robbie Gould.

“Kevin Butler is an ’85 Chicago Bear,” Mannelly said. “And he’s going to break an all-time living legend’s record.”

WATCH LIST

BEARS

RB Matt Forte
With their best receivers still hindered by injuries, the Bears continue to lean on Forte, who leads the NFL with 84 rushing attempts.

LT Charles Leno Jr.

His first start went well, but Chiefs veteran outside linebacker Tamba Hali has a chance to make his second a long, miserable day.

DT Eddie Goldman
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been sacked 18 times. Goldman showed off his pass-rush skills with his first sack last week.

CHIEFS

RB Jamaal Charles
Charles is arguably the best back the Bears will face this season. Are inside linebacker Shea McClellin and Christian Jones up to the challenge?

TE Travis Kelce
Kelce is a mismatch waiting to happen. He has 21 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder.

OLB Justin Houston
Another week, another stiff challenge for right tackle Kyle Long. The Raiders’ Khalil Mack is a good player, but Houston is great. He had 22 sacks last season.

COACH’S COMMENT

“I see the same guy that I have always seen. Alex is a damn good quarterback. Very good athlete. Runs their offense very efficiently and effectively.”

— Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith

UNSUNG SPOTLIGHT

Jarvis Jenkins / Defensive end / No. 96

Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee has taken the spotlight for his early success, but Jenkins deserves some attention, too.

Jenkins is looking like a successful free-agent signing for general manager Ryan Pace. He is flourishing in coordinator Vic Fangio’s defensive system and is becoming a formidable pass rusher that must be monitored by opposing offenses.

Jenkins’ three sacks through four games already are a career-best.

“You’re always going to be hungry to get to the quarterback,” Jenkins said. “Sacks are hard to come by. I’ve got to just keep pressing that and not get complacent. Three’s definitely not enough. I want our whole defense to get that.”

Similar to McPhee, Jenkins’ brash ways have helped form the defense’s new identity.

“Whether we are 1-3 or 3-1, we just have to go out there together,” Jenkins said. “We just need to keep it rolling. One game is not going to define our season. There is a lot of football left. We just need to keep moving forward.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns
Email: ajahns@suntimes.com