There are few jobs in the NFL as punishing as being the kicker for the Chicago Bears.
Not only do you have to do your very precise work in the cold and snow of a Chicago winter, you also have to deal with a field notorious for its shoddy grass. The Bears had struggled to find quality kickers since releasing all-time scoring leader Robbie Gould in 2015 (you may remember a double-doink), but Cairo Santos looked like the answer last year.
Part of the reason for that is Santos learned to adapt.
As he told reporters on Wednesday, Santos prepared for Soldier Field this offseason by intentionally seeking out poorly maintained public parks in Florida to simulate the surface, per the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I was going to a turf field at a high school, which was perfect,” Santos recounted. “It was almost like, ‘OK. I’m getting too comfortable.’ So in my neighborhood, there’s a soccer field and the grass is a Bermuda grass. It’s real long. I was like, ‘OK. This is more like it.’
“The ball flies different. It’s not super even all the time... It’s important to put yourself in that situation.”
That practice is already coming in handy, as Santos reportedly said the Soldier Field surface has looked even worse than usual in training camp:
“Especially Week 1, our first game of the season — I’ve seen better,” Santos said, somehow sounding surprised yet not surprised whatsoever at the same time. “It’s just what we have to deal with. The less of a problem you make it in your mind, it helps you overcome it and just go.”
You can see for yourself here:
Soldier Field grass in midseason form— pic.twitter.com/do8bSa10bI
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) August 9, 2022
This will be an environment Santos has to deal with for the foreseeable future, as he signed a five-year, $16 million contract this offseason, though the deal is voidable after three years.
The deal was well-earned after Santos made 30-of-32 field goal attempts and 36-of-37 extra points last season, including a franchise-record 26 consecutive field goal makes.