It speaks to the type of season that Bears' kicker Eddy Piñeiro is (quietly?) having when special teams coordinator Chris Tabor all together avoided the topic on Thursday afternoon.
"Are you going to ask me if I'm throwing a no-hitter?" Tabor joked, when asked about a season in which the second-year kicker has only missed once (20-21).
"Please [leave us alone on the bench]. We like to be by ourselves."
In what's turned out to be a sublime bit of irony, Piñeiro has become the most dependable scoring option for the Bears. He's perfect on extra point attempts (11) and 9-10 on field goals. His longest, from 53, also happened to be a walkoff in Denver. Add in the fact that he's played through a pinched nerve in his kicking knee, and the effort looks even more impressive.
Piñeiro's back at full strength, according to Tabor, having already resumed kickoff duties against the Saints. Given the nosedive that Chicago temperatures take around this time of year, getting healthy couldn't have come at a better time. Soldier Field's turf is as infamously unfriendly to kickers as the Lake Michigan winds that swirl around Soldier Field. New Orleans kicker Will Lutz, who missed two against the Bears on Sunday, called Soldier Field "different" and "tough," saying "... it’s a new type of grass. That’s the long, thick grass that we don’t get down here.”
Piñeiro's from South Beach, was a Florida Gator, and got drafted by Oakland; kicking in the cold hasn't been something he has much experience with. According to Tabor, however, there's only so much you can do to try and prepare for bad weather.
"When we go out to work, he can’t control it," he said. "For example, last week when we kicked out here, the wind was probably gusting up to 30-35 mph, and he kicked real well. He said, ‘Coach, I’m going to attack this thing and the wind’s going to be my buddy by the end of the day.’ Well, love the attitude. Then we went down on Friday to the stadium and ironically, fortunately for us, it was the same wind on Sunday. And he kicked great."
Tabor conceded that there's no real way to gauge how a kicker responds to cold conditions until he kicks in it, rendering predictions useless. The Bears have always raved about Piñeiro's willingness to take on challenges with a full head of steam, and as long as the results hold steady, it's hard to imagine kicking in the cold going any differently.
"At the end of the day, all we say, day by day, is are you an NFL kicker?," Tabor added. "Then put together an NFL day. I think there’s going to be some trials and tribulations on this deal, but I like where he’s trending, I like his attitude about it, but at the end of the day, it’ll be about making kicks."