As it turns out, the Bears didn’t just bring in a clown car full of kickers to their rookie minicamp, they were stuffing another pair of big shoes in there once it arrived.
Via Nathan Brown of the New Orleans Advocate, they actually had their tryout punter join the eight kickers they dragged in for rookie minicamp, letting him try his hand (or foot, as the case may be) at field goals.
McNeese State punter Alex Kjellsten got another look with the Saints, but said of the Bears experience: “it seemed like the whole camp was about finding a kicker.”
They had four on the roster and brought four more in on a tryout basis. They kept two of them, and then traded for another afterward. During the rookie minicamp, they had each of the candidates try a 43-yarder at the end of practice with everyone watching, replicating Cody Parkey’s playoff miss. Only two hit it, so on the second day they had Kjellsten kicking as well.
He was surprised by the level of detail they went to in the search.
“They brought in something like 14 specialists, and the organization did a great job of constructing pressure situations for us, and it was very competitive,” Kjellsten said. “Every kick was charted, and they had all this technology on the goalpost.
“Then, at the end of practice, they had all the kickers line up, and everyone was standing on the 50-yard-line. It was silent, like you could have heard a pin drop. Every kick held a lot of weight — even if you made the kick, if the ball wasn’t rotating the right way or if it knocked off the upright and then went in, it was no good to them.”
It’s easy to view that as obsessive, if not excessive. While it’s clearly important for a team to find a reliable kicker, the way the Bears are setting up this search also puts the job in more of a spotlight than it naturally brings. Now, as soon as the next poor soul to hold that job misses a kick and the Bears lose a game, he’ll become the focus of the larger failure. They made Parkey a pariah, partly for the miss and partly for his television appearance in the aftermath, and now they’re ensuring his replacement will be under even more pressure.