CHICAGO -- The Bears' much-publicized kicker search got a boost from an unlikely source Thursday night.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who played linebacker for the Bears from 1984 to 1992, admitted after Carolina's 23-13 preseason victory at Soldier Field that he intentionally called a timeout before Chicago's Elliott Fry attempted a 43-yard field goal to help his former team better evaluate the rookie kicker.
"You know what is funny, I did that to help the Bears because they are in a kicking contest," Rivera said.
Bears coach Matt Nagy denied that he and Rivera were in cahoots but nonetheless expressed gratitude.
"No, it wasn't planned, but I'm kind of glad he did it," Nagy said with a smile.
Fry's 43-yard kick, which he successfully converted after the timeout, holds great significance.
It was from that exact 43-yard distance and direction -- into the north end zone -- that former Bears kicker Cody Parkey had the infamous double-doink missed kick at the end of the Bears' bitter home playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in January. The team released Parkey, who had eight missed kicks in 2018, in the aftermath of the postseason defeat and have spent the entire offseason looking for a suitable replacement.
Nagy went as far as to have kickers purposely attempt field goals from 43 yards in front of the entire team during the offseason program, plus other motivational techniques, because of the symbolism attached to Parkey's failed kick.
"You could feel it," Nagy said about Fry's make. "You could sense it, from all the fans, and I looked over and I said -- after the completion down the middle, and then they spotted it, and I'm so used to seeing -- like my math is really good right now. I can figure out real quick how far a field goal kick is from the spot of the ball, so I realized it was 43. Am I right? Yeah, then Coach Rivera pops a timeout too."
Fry and fellow Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro have spent most of training camp alternating days that they kick.
Fry was the clear winner Thursday night, hitting the important 43-yarder and a PAT.
Pineiro missed wide left on a 48-yard attempt but later converted a 23-yard chip shot.