Casey Bednarski was one of many stones the Bears didn’t leave unturned in their circuslike exorcising of jettisoned kicker Cody Parkey and the double-doinking demons he conjured with his 43-yard miss in the closing seconds of last year’s playoff loss to the Eagles.
So you’ll have to pardon the awkward silence that followed when a Twin Cities reporter asked Bears coach Matt Nagy this week how the “kid from Mankato” looked during his three-day rookie minicamp tryout four months ago.
To jog Nagy’s memory, the question was rephrased to accentuate Bednarski’s place in a flurry of offseason moves that saw the Bears work out roughly 20 or so kickers, sign four and trade for their current kicker, Eddy Pineiro.
“You know,” the reporter said to Nagy, “the backflip kid?”
“Oh yeah, I remember him,” said Nagy, recalling the signature move Bednarski uncorked when he clinched the Day 3 competition and stood out among eight kickers, four of them under contract with the Bears at the time.
“He did pretty good. He had some good stuff. We had a bunch of guys in, so I apologize for [not remembering].”
Did ya grade that backflip?
“No because I just caught the tail end of it and I thought, ‘What the hell’s he doing?’ ” Nagy said. “I’ve seen [former Cardinals kicker Bill] Gramatica do some stupid stuff and I was just concerned about [injury].”
Now living in Eden Prairie, Bednarski delivers FedEx packages by early morning so the rest of his days can be focused on chasing the NFL dream. Though the Bears rejected him, his success that weekend fuels his daily workouts at Chanhassen’s ETS Sports Performance Center, co-owned by Adam Thielen, Minnesota State Mankato’s ultimate rags-to-NFL-riches story.
“I know [Bears General Manager] Ryan Pace was there,” Bednarski said. “The whole organization was there watching me win that competition. Even [defensive coordinator] Chuck Pagano gave me knucks after I did the backflip and won the thing.
“So, I don’t know. I’m going to keep training. It could be a blessing in disguise.”
The Bears, of course, have nothing for which to apologize. Pineiro, a second-year player who had no prior NFL experience, has made all his PATs and five of six field goal attempts, including a Windy City soul-cleansing 53-yard walkoff winner at Denver in Week 2.
So far, it’s a good story. With one strange chapter Bednarski never will forget.
“It was wild,” he said. “I got there and I kept seeing more dudes I knew from kicking camps.”
The Bears had Chris Blewitt, Elliott Fry, John Baron II and Redford Jones under contract. They were joined by four tryout guys, including Bednarski and former Gopher Emmit Carpenter.
“I counted, they counted, and I missed the fewest kicks,” said Bednarski, who went 35-for-40. “If you’re serious about getting some guys to compete, why wouldn’t you take the guy who didn’t miss as many?”
The Bears also tracked ball speed and trajectory. The knock on Bednarski was his low trajectory.
“I heard that, but maybe on only a couple,” he said. “They actually brought out a tall net the second day and sat it 7 yards in front of us just because of me. I never hit the net.”
Before camp, the Bears showed the kickers a 2018 season review that highlighted Parkey’s missed 43-yarder.
“Every day, we’d have two lines,” Bednarski said. “Left hash, right hash from 43 yards.”
Nagy also stopped the first two practices and picked a kicker to attempt a 43-yarder.
“The first day was Elliott Fry,” Bednarski said. “He missed. The second day, Blewitt. He missed.”
The third day was a two-kicker competition. Jones represented the offense. Bednarski the defense.
“First one to miss lost and had to stand there and watch his side do up-downs,” Bednarski said. “I went first. We both made it from 32 and 43. I made it from 48. Then he missed.”
The defense went wild. Bednarski went heels over head.
“I’m on social media doing a backflip after kicking a 70-yarder, so it’s kind of my thing,” said the 6-1, 215-pound Bednarski, who also made a 63-yarder in a 2017 game. “But it was sheer joy. I really thought I was going to be signed.”
But the Bears kept only Blewitt and Fry.
“I don’t want to say it’s political but who knows?” Bednarski said. “Maybe Nagy didn’t like the backflip.
“But I don’t take it back. I’m not going to hide who I am. When I get my next shot, I know I will capitalize on it just like I did with the Bears.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org