A Tale of Two Kickers

Although Doug Brien is the odds on favorite to be the placekicker, there are three other players on the roster competing for the honor. Rookie kickers Nick Novak and Tyler Jones looked ready to go head to head in a position battle during Wednesday's OTA. While each spent most of day independently honing their technique, they seemed acutely aware of each other more often than not. Novak and Jones tell Bear Report readers what the competition has been like so far.

Tyler Jones: While many may not think of Boise State as a football powerhouse, my time there really prepared me for what life in the NFL has been about so far. Several players have been able to go from Boise State to the next level over the past few years, including my good friend Brock Forsey, who played for the Bears for a year. I knew quite a bit about the team before I ever came here. Brock was always really good about coming back to school and telling the rest of the players about life in the NFL. He wanted us to be prepared. I think that gave us a real edge when it came time for our turn to go pro.

Being a Mormon, I went on a two-year mission to Bolivia shortly after high school. When that was complete, I walked-on and had to produce on a weekly basis. That taught me how to handle pressure, which is coming in handy right now.

Last season, I converted 27 of 29 field goal attempts with the longest one around 48 yards. Unfortunately it wasn't good enough to get me drafted, but it still gives for me confidence in my ability.

During practice I try to isolate each skill and work on it in sequence until I am satisfied with my complete motion. Accuracy and confidence are obvious keys when you're a kicker. The mechanics have to be repeated until they become second nature. Recently my focus has been on planting my feet, then placing my hips at the proper angle.

It always bugs when some of the players think that kickers don't have to work as hard as the guys, say, on the lines. Believe me, we are expected to be in just as good shape as anybody else on the team. Nick and I have been lifting and running wind sprints, doing the same drills as receivers and defensive backs. We are also on the new diet program that every other member of the roster is working with right now.

Surprising as it may be, Nick and I are friends, even though we will be in a pretty tough battle for position. I think that kickers as a whole have a lot in common. It's the mindset that helps us to be at ease with each other. I'll help him out, he'll help me out. That's the way things go, at least until it gets down to crunch time.

Nick Novak: Tyler and I have similar backgrounds in the fact that I also had a good friend who played for the Bears. Brooks Barnard spent some time in Chicago and we went to Maryland as I did. He is a great guy who really helped me to get to this level. I worked with him a lot during college then again just before the draft. I'm sure that Tyler would agree that having a mentor makes a difference.

Special teams coach Dave Toub told me there would be a wide-open competition for the position. I think that is one of the factors that made the Bears an appealing choice. You want to go where you have the chance to play, to be the best. I have the utmost respect for Doug Brien and I'm sure that Tyler does as well, but this job is up for grabs and that's a good thing. That makes everybody better.

I knew Tyler by reputation well before coming to Chicago. He's a strong technician and a player who performs well under pressure. We are of similar size. I'm 6' and he's 6'1" and both have good leg strength and accuracy. The decision will come down to who kicks the best and I'd like to think that would be me.

Life in the ACC made me accustomed to a high level of competition and can keep a cool head under fire. If the game comes down to my making the field goal, I'm confident that I can get the job done. My goal for years has been to play in the NFL. Now that I'm this close to reaching that goal, I'll do everything I can to lock in a spot.

Surprisingly the veterans have been helpful with a bit of teasing from time to time. That's to be expected I suppose, but it keeps the rookies together. We are all new so sharing this experience and helping each other as best we can makes sense.

I feel that I have a fair chance to make this team. The competition is one of the reasons I came here. It's nothing personal. I respect Doug and I think Tyler is a great guy, but I want the spot.


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