Perhaps the most surprising aspect of a Bears team eight days from beginning its 2019 season is this: At the moment, there are some legitimately positive vibes surrounding its kicker.
Imagine if the Bears were able to pull the trigger on a trade for Kaare Vedvik with the Baltimore Ravens two and a half weeks ago, and Vedvik did the same things in front of Matt Nagy he’s done in front of Mike Zimmer (as in: miss a lot of kicks).
That’d be the worst-case scenario, one which would’ve incited a full-on panic across Chicago. Especially when folks still scarred by the double doink realized the Bears' position on the waiver wire (24th) could prevent them from getting the best one or two kickers who come available over Labor Day weekend.
The Vikings — a franchise with a longer, arguably more brutal kicking history than the Bears — traded a 2020 fifth-round pick for Vedvik on Aug. 11. The vibes in Minnesota were positive then — Vedvik was supposed to be the best backup available, perhaps the next great kicker to be unearthed by a Ravens team that discovered Justin Tucker and gave Wil Lutz his start.
You don't trade a fifth-round pick for a kicker just for him to not solve your issues at that position.
“I think he’s got everything it takes,” Vedvik’s former special teams coach, who Zimmer consulted, said via TwinCities.com.
That was Aug. 17. On Aug. 27, the Vikings' special teams coach, Marwan Maalouf, said this:
Marwan Maalouf on Kaare Vedvik's 2 missed FGs vs. Arizona: "Disappointing. It’s unacceptable. He knows that and hopefully this weekend we’ll get more opportunities. We plan on playing all the guys as much as we possibly can." Notes that both Vedvik & Dan Bailey will split FG reps— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) August 27, 2019
Vedvik missed from 54 and 43 yards in the Vikings' third preseason game. Those are the only two field goals he's attempted with the Vikings so far, though he connected from 55, 45, 29 and 26 yards in preseason Week 1 with the Ravens. But he's also been uneven in practice, missing four field goals on Tuesday. No wonder Zimmer said his concern regarding Vedvik is "high."
Since the Ravens shipped Vedvik to the Vikings, Eddy Pineiro hasn't missed a field goal. He bombed a 58-yarder against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, which represented a truly encouraging moment in a kicking competition short on those over the last few months. The Bears like his swagger, which he's started to show more of since the release of Elliott Fry left him as the only kicker on the roster.
There's still one more hurdle for Pineiro to clear before Sept. 5, though: He has to make a kick or two at Soldier Field in Thursday's preseason finale.
"I think from last weekend, what he just did, it’s definitely looking good for us," coach Matt Nagy said. "And I hope it stays that way."
Barring a disaster, Pineiro looks in line to be the Bears' Week 1 kicker. We don't know if he's the long-term solution to the Cody Parkey problem, and won't until he makes (or misses) a big kick in a critical moment.
But with eight days left until the regular season begins, would you feel better about Pineiro or Vedvik being the Bears' kicker against the Green Bay Packers?
Right now, it doesn't feel like a difficult choice.