BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — “Augusta silence” is no longer a feature of the Bears’ kicking competition, not with throngs of fans showing up to Olivet Nazarene University to watch training camp practices. But in a way, Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor would like to wrestle some peace and quiet back into the battle of Elliott Fry vs. Eddy Pineiro.
Tabor said the crowd noise in Bourbonnais has been a positive — it's put pressure on both kickers, after all. But that there’s even noise at all whenever Fry or Pineiro kick is sort of the issue.
“I think the other thing we’re trying to get to is the clapping, to get it non-existent,” Tabor said. “… A little more of a golf clap, and if you get it to that, that means they expect you to make it. So that’s what we’re trying to get to.”
The attention placed on the Bears’ kicking competition is easy to see — and hear — whenever field goal drills commence. Fans who might’ve been leaving their seats turn back around to see if the kicker of the day is accurate or not. Cheers and applause were abundant on Thursday as Pineiro made eight of his nine field goal attempts, including nailing a 60-yarder on his “dealer’s choice” for the day.
For the most part, fans around other training camps don’t make much noise when a kicker lines up for a practice-time field goal. It's not a hot-button issue around the nation like it is in Chicago. Last year, the only noticeable ovation Cody Parkey got in Bourbonnais was when he hit a camera situated behind the center of the uprights a few times in a row.
So it’s a good thought by Tabor — the quieter the crowd is, the more mundane it is for fans to see their team’s kicker make a field goal. And getting there means the Bears will have solved their kicker problem.
But the team hasn’t found a solution yet, even if Fry and Pineiro have generally looked good over the course of five practices. Fry will get his day to kick on Friday after a schedule change put Pineiro in the spotlight Thursday, then both will get a chance to kick at Soldier Field for Family Fest on Saturday.
“The nice thing is, when a guy is successful it puts more pressure on the other guy and he’s been responding,” Tabor said.
The real tests will begin in preseason games, the first of which for the Bears will take place Aug. 8 at Soldier Field against the Carolina Panthers. Tabor wouldn’t reveal what the Bears’ plan is for Fry and Pineiro in preseason games — as in, would they take turns during a game or would each kicker plan to get two full games.
Still, after what felt like an inconsistent sideshow during spring practices, just seeing Fry and Pineiro consistently making kicks in Bourbonnais — even if it’s only for a handful of practices — is encouraging.
“To a man, (the) OTA performance wasn’t good enough,” Tabor said. “And they understand that. And we’re out front with that. And they’re performing. They can only control what they can control. And I think both guys are doing that. You know? We’ll see how it plays out.”