Edinger's Days in Chicago could be Numbered

Chicago - Paul Edinger came into this year as the most accurate field goal kicker in team history and could end up on the street after this season.

Granted the conditions at Soldier Field were far from ideal against Houston, but Edinger missed badly on a 39-yard attempt and barely cleared the crossbar on a 43-yard conversion.

For the year, Edinger is 15-24 after hitting on 1-of-2 attempts against the Texans. He's a disappointing 2-of-5 between 30-39 yards and 4-of-7 between 40-49 yards, a statistic he led the NFL in over the previous four seasons.

"I'm definitely not being as consistent as I'd like as far kicking the ball," Edinger said.

Consistent had been the credo for Edinger. Coming into this year he converted 77.9 percent of his attempts. Despite his struggles this year he's become just the fourth kicker to reach 400 points in franchise history and moved into fifth on the all-time scorer list. He has never missed an extra point in 139 attempts.

The one knock on Edinger has always his lack of hang time or distance on kickoffs, which has been overlooked in the past because of his ability to perform when the game is on the line.

Edinger's resume includes five career game-winning field goals and being named Special Teams Player of the Week three times.

However, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Edinger lost his biggest fan.

Dick Jauron stood by Edinger because he helped him win games.

Since coming to Chicago as a sixth-round pick in 2000, he's led the team in scoring every season and is well on his way to doing that again this year.

GM Jerry Angelo has never viewed Edinger with the same respect and has tried to find suitable competition in training camp with little success.

Angelo was reluctant to match a five-year $7 million offer sheet Edinger signed with the Vikings as a restricted free agent in 2003.

Lovie Smith has had little positive to say about Edinger. On virtually every missed field goal by Edinger, Smith has been sure to mention something about it in his post-game press conference.

"We'd like to see all of our players pushed and whether you have someone here at that time or not, if you're not doing the job, someone will eventually come in to push you for your job. Competition of course brings out the best in all of us and we all have to perform at a certain level or someone will compete with us, here now or later," Smith said earlier in the week when asked about Edinger needing competition.

Edinger's downslide started midway through last season. After converting on a personal-best 14 straight attempts to start the year, he converted 12-of-23 the rest of the season.

The timing coincides with the team moving into the new Soldier Field, but Edinger discounts that as a possible explanation.

"I've kicked better here than I have on the road," Edinger said.

Edinger has connected on 8-of-12 at home and 7-of-12 on the road, but all three of his 50-yard conversions have come at Soldier Field.

The slump has continued this year and with a kicker the problem is often mental. A kicker's stroke is similar to that of a golfer. When a hitch comes in it can be hard to correct.

"Maybe I'm not concentrating hard enough, I think I am but (it's not working)," Edinger said. "It's a tough year for me right now. I know what I'm doing I've just got to get rid of it."

The Bears have the second lowest field goal percentage in the NFL behind Tampa Bay, who released Martin Gramatica earlier in the year because of his struggles. While the same fate will not befall Edinger in season, there is a chance he won't be part of the 53-man roster in 2005.


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