LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears aren’t accustomed to much turnover in the kicking game where free agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly (16 seasons) and place kicker Robbie Gould (nine seasons) have been fixtures at their respective position.
But the dynamic will change in 2014 with the arrival of sixth-round draft choice Pat O’Donnell, who is expected to be just the third starting punter (Brad Maynard and Adam Podlesh) used by the Bears since 2001, especially after the team informed veteran punter Drew Butler of his release on Sunday.
The 6-foot-5 O’Donnell showcased his powerful leg during the Bears’ three-day rookie minicamp, but the rookie also spent valuable time off-the-field learning from Gould, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. O’Donnell will double as the Bears’ holder next season barring some unforeseen event.
“Robbie has been throughout the building trying to help me out, and learning from him will be a great opportunity for me,” O’Donnell said on Sunday. “I know it’s a great challenge playing in Chicago at times, but I’m looking for to it. He told me that on a windy day like this you should go out and walk the field and try to correct your drop. [He told me] to focus on the kicking side of your technique.
“I held for three years, so I’m pretty familiar with that. Robbie is a veteran, so he’s going to tell me exactly how he likes it held. So I’m going to be guided in the right direction. So it’s not going to be too big of a challenge.”
O’Donnell routinely hit the roof of the Walter Payton center on Friday when the team conducted to opening day of rookie minicamp indoors. The final two practices were held on the outdoor practice fields, but O’Donnell continued to impress on Saturday during the brief kicking drills the punters participated in that were open to the media. Sunday’s final session lasted just under an hour.