Khalil Mack isn’t the only ex-Oakland Raider who might be out to make his former team pay for trading him Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro had an odd tenure in Oakland: He signed with them as an undrafted free agent in 2018 (this after he left Florida early to turn pro) and felt like he had the Raiders’ kicking job won during preseason later that year. But Pineiro suffered a groin injury in August and landed on injured reserve, with the explanation given to him that he’d essentially redshirt the 2018 season and take over as the Raiders’ kicker in 2019.
The Bears acquired Pineiro for a conditional seventh-round pick one day after their nine-kicker rookie minicamp tryout ended earlier this year. Pineiro got a call from general manager Mike Mayock on that early May Monday telling him he had a good opportunity for him to be the Bears’ kicker. Two hours later, he was on a plane to Chicago.
“I was definitely blindsided because I felt like I was doing really good and I was competing and doing well,” Pineiro said. “But everything happens for a reason. I was excited. I was excited for the opportunity. I knew the Bears needed a kicker so I had a shot to be the starting guy and obviously it worked out.”
Pineiro was a little subdued talking about his time with the Raiders on Tuesday at Halas Hall, but this is a guy who cornerback Prince Amukamara once described as “one of the quote-un-quote swaggiest kickers I’ve ever seen.” He has a certain mental edge to him. It’d be surprising if he didn’t head to London with a little extra motivation to drill a couple kicks against the team that believed in him until they thought a conditional seventh-round pick was more valuable.
That being said, the most important thing for Pineiro Sunday won't be some play for vengeance. It’s that the pinched nerve in his kicking leg is feeling better — he said he was in less pain last Sunday than he was in Week 3, when he kicked in Washington only three days after suffering his injury in the Halas Hall weight room.
"I think my knee is getting a lot better,” Pineiro said. “The training staff here is doing a great job. I’m trying to recover as fast as I can and the bye week’s going to be a big week for me to get completely healthy.”
So Pineiro has Week 7 targeted as when he’ll be back to full strength, or at least won’t be hobbling after attempting a field goal. But under those circumstances, what Pineiro has done in the Bears’ last two games has been remarkable. He’s made four of five field goals and hasn’t missed a PAT, gritting though the discomfort and getting over the mental hurdle of having trouble locking his kicking leg on those attempts.
“A lot of players play with pain,” Pineiro said. “I know I’m not the only one playing with pain.”
The condition of the Bears’ trade to acquire Pineiro back in May was the team would send the Raiders a 2021 seventh-round draft pick if Pineiro appeared in five games in 2019. Pineiro will make his fifth appearance for the Bears Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, so the Bears will officially part with that pick in the coming days.
The price the Bears paid to trade for Pineiro isn’t close to the two first-round picks it took the Bears to get Mack. But Pineiro has made eight of nine field goals this year, quite literally won the Bears a game in Denver with a 53-yard walk-off bomb, and has remained consistent despite kicking through pain the last two weeks.
Given where the Bears’ search for a kicker was when they traded for Pineiro — all those missed 43-yard field goals while trying to own Cody Parkey’s double doink — the price they paid to get him has been more than well worth it.
“I’m very grateful for their opportunity,” Pineiro said, diplomatically. “They were the team that believed in me at that time. I didn’t get drafted and they’re a team that believed in me and they gave me a shot. They put me on IR, using it as an redshirt year, that they told me, to get better and develop. But at the end of the day I’m always going to be grateful, they were the first team that gave me a shot to play in the NFL.”