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Matt Nagy says everything’s fine at kicker as Bears turn to beleaguered Cairo Santos

Santos has been on six teams in three years and has the second-worst field goal percentage in the NFL over that span. But with Eddy Pineiro on Injured Reserve, Nagy believes he’s their best option.

Cairo Santos made 1 of 2 field goals for the Bears in 2017 before missing the next game with an injury suffered in warmups.
Cairo Santos made 1 of 2 field goals for the Bears in 2017 before missing the next game with an injury suffered in warmups.
Chris Szagola/AP

After everything the Bears have endured at kicker the last few years, most recently an injury to promising incumbent Eddy Pineiro, they’ll turn to the player with the second-worst field goal percentage in the NFL over the last three seasons to handle their opener.

Meet Cairo Santos. If the game against the Lions comes down to a field goal, it’ll be his.

Meet him again, actually, since the Bears were one of his six stops over the last three years. He went 1-for-2 in a game against the Eagles in 2017, then missed the next one because of a groin injury in warmups.

He has made 68.8% of his field goals while kicking for the Chiefs, Bears, Rams, Buccaneers and Titans (he also signed with the Jets in 2018 but got cut in the preseason), and the Titans cut him last season for going 0-for-4 in a 14-7 loss to the Bills.

Nothing to worry about, coach Matt Nagy said Thursday. He was an assistant with the Chiefs during Santos’ good years, 2014 through 2016, and that overshadows all the tumult since.

“I just know from my history . . . it was just one of those deals where you never were concerned,” Nagy said. “They’re all going to have some misses, but it wasn’t something where you were holding your breath. That’s just how I felt.

“Right now, he’s in here, in training camp and these last practices and . . . he’s making a lot of kicks right now, which I like.”

The biggest cause for the Bears’ confidence is they believe Santos is finally healthy.

His time with the Chiefs, where he was an 84.8% kicker through three-plus seasons, ended with a torn groin muscle in September 2017. He further damaged it while with the Bears and eventually underwent sports hernia surgery.

He showed some resurgence with the Bucs in 2018 but was cut at the end of training camp last season. He said the injury and his sporadic opportunities made it “hard to stick with a team,” and he continued struggling to regain his strength, but he kicked very well in preseason practices with the Bears.

“It’s been a great fit here,” said Santos, who will be added from the practice squad by Saturday. “We’ve been putting in some good work in practice. I feel really good, confident and comfortable to just come in and do my job.”

The Bears expect it to be temp work. The new pandemic-related rules allow teams to bring unlimited players off injured reserve after a stay of at least three weeks, so Pineiro could be back from his groin injury for the Oct. 4 game against the visiting Colts.

But Santos has the opportunity to stay for the season. Nagy intends to keep a spare kicker on the practice squad in case Pineiro is ruled out with a positive coronavirus test.

Pineiro played through a knee injury for about a third of last season and made 23 of 28 field goals. He finished 17th in the NFL at 82.1%.