BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The “Augusta silence” of the Chicago Bears’ offseason is no more.
The controlled, closed OTA and minicamp workouts where the Bears demanded total silence when their kickers lined up for field-goal attempts have been replaced by raucous training camp crowds that swelled to more than 17,000 over two days this weekend.
The quiet kicks for Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro, the two kickers left standing after an extensive offseason search to replace Cody Parkey, are over. Field-goal attempts, typically a mundane part of training camp around the league, have become the main attraction at Bears camp.
“How do you not love two kickers battling for one spot competing their tails off after everything that’s gone on with our team and our city? I appreciate that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said on Sunday.
You only love kickers when they make kicks.
And the Bears missed far too many kicks in the offseason program for anyone to feel good about the position as camp opened.
But Fry and Pineiro temporarily calmed the masses over the weekend, hitting a combined 16 of 18 field-goal attempts (Fry 9-of-10 on Saturday and Pineiro 7-of-8 on Sunday) from distances that ranged from 33 to 63 yards.
“You expect it, this is the NFL, you don’t expect guys to come out and miss,” Fry said. “Eddy had a great day on Sunday. I had a great day on Saturday. We just go from here.”
Nagy intends to rotate days with the kickers until further notice.
“I think rotating days works really well,” Fry said. “No. 1, it lets us rest our legs. That’s a big deal with kickers, making sure you are fresh every day. I think not having any confusion and having a rhythm where you know that today is your day, just like it would be in a game. In the season, you’re not going to be splitting reps with anyone, it’s going to be your day and you go for it. It’s making it as regular season as possible.”
Another new wrinkle Nagy unveiled over the weekend is called “dealer’s choice” in which Fry and Pineiro are each allowed at the end of the kicking period to attempt a long field goal from a distance of their choosing.
But there are rules.
“You’ve got to earn it,” Nagy said. “You don’t get dealer’s choice if you miss kicks. One kick [missed] sounds like it enables you to get dealer’s choice. We’re going to continue just having these guys have this kickoff and this kicking challenge and see who ends up with the best production.”
Fry used his “dealer’s choice” to hit from 60 yards on Saturday. Pineiro upped the ante on Sunday, nailing a 63-yard field goal.
“Coach asked me to try it from 60, but I’m like, 'Nah, you guys hit from 60 yesterday -- we’re going 63 today,'” Pineiro said with a smile.