- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO – Thirteen weeks removed from surgery to repair a ruptured semitendinosus tendon in his left leg that sidelined him for the final three games of 2012, Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould welcomes the competition created on Friday when the Bears signed former Eastern Illinois kicker Austin Signor to a three-year contract.
The addition of Signor, who participated in the Bears’ voluntary three-day minicamp on a tryout basis, marks the first time another placekicker is expected to challenge Gould in training camp in several years. The Bears have brought in training camp punters to compete with incumbent starter Adam Podlesh and former punter Brad Maynard, but Gould has gone unopposed, until now.
Gould was present at camp last week but did not kick.
“I’m excited about it, I really am,” Gould said. “Competition is healthy, at every position, and it only makes all the players better. Hopefully I can learn a little bit from Austin, and he can learn a little bit from me. This is exactly what the Bears are supposed to do. All good organizations create competition. It’s healthy. I’m looking forward to it. Competition brings out the best in everybody.”
Gould is still about three weeks away from being able to pass a physical to get medically cleared to resume kicking without restrictions. One of the most accurate kickers of all time and the second-leading scorer in Bears’ history with 902 points, Gould began kicking air this past week and intends to start a live, modified individual kicking regimen next week.
“Rehab is going well,” Gould said. “I’ve been rehabbing at Halas Hall since January and the Bears program has been outstanding. It’s been non-stop. Being injured isn’t fun, trust me, but with the aid of the Bears, I feel confident I’ll be back better than ever. Can’t say enough about the job the Bears’ athletic trainers have done to get me back on track.”
Gould said he was impressed by Signor during the minicamp.
“This competition will only help,” Gould said. “Honestly, some of my best years came when I had another guy to push me in camp and during the offseason program. We’re just being cautious and operating on this timetable to avoid the risk of another injury. I expect to be out there during organized team activities at some point, which is generally when I begin my kicking in the offseason.
“I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Entering the final year of a five-year extension he signed in May 2008, Gould has kicked ten game-winning field goals for the Bears and was voted to the NFL’s All-Pro team in 2006.