And then there were two … for now.
After beginning the weekend’s rookie minicamp with eight kickers — four under contract and four tryout players — vying to replace Cody Parkey, the Bears have two under contract: Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry.
The Bears waived Sunday night PKs Redford Jones and John Baron, along with DL Lawrence Marshall and DB Adarius Pickett, and signed OL Tommy Doles and DL Jalen Dalton. The transactions brought the roster to 90 men — including two kickers — but based on the weekend’s unusual proceedings — and often uninspired results — don’t be surprised if (when) more shuffling at the position ensues in the coming weeks and months.
Jones was the first kicker the Bears signed this offseason after cutting Parkey, but he lost Sunday’s kicking competition to tryout player Casey Bednarski. Coach Matt Nagy concluded all three practices with kicking battles, beginning Friday with each of the eight kickers attempting 43-yard (doh) field goals, with only two successes (Baron and Purdue’s Spencer Evans). Saturday’s conclusion was slightly less depressing: a combined 6-of-8 from 42 yards (Baron and Jones).
A surreal weekend that included coaches and media charting every kick, also monitored by the team via radar and video, and the large kicker contingency even working on their own field before the practice-closing battles under the spotlight was all part of the Bears’ thorough —and highly unorthodox — plan to solve their biggest riddle — without ignoring the "elephant in the room."
"To use it as a learning tool. I think in life — not just football — so many people are scared to talk about the quote-unquote elephant in the room," Nagy said. "They don’t want to be honest. Or they feel uncomfortable by it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to use it as a positive. We’re going to try to learn from it, and different ways to do it."
And the Bears aren’t naïve enough to think the battle of the battle is nigh or the Week 1 starter is necessarily even in the picture yet.
"I feel strongly that it will happen, but again, I don't know," Nagy said. "There's so many things that can go on between now and the start of the season, that I wish I could tell you I knew this was going to happen. But I really honestly don't have an answer for you on that.”
Nagy did explain Friday the challenges that come with only having kickers with no NFL experience competing for what’s become — much to the Bears own doing — a very high-profile job. It'll be interesting to see whether the next potential transaction at the position involves someone with pro experience. (Fry kicked in the now-defunct AAF earlier this year, but Blewitt last kicked in a game when we was at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016.)
"There's certainly going to be a growth factor with anyone that doesn't have experience. But there's teams out there right now that have gone into the playoffs with kickers with no experience that have made big kicks. You just don't know that until they have that opportunity, and it's not fair to these young kids, or these rookie players to not be able to give them a chance and say, "well you can't be our kicker because you've never had a chance before."
“That's not fair to them. But then with that comes criticism that you went with a young kicker. So that's the balance.”