Bears kicker Cairo Santos dismayed by poor condition of Soldier Field grass this early

Santos has navigated the kicker’s nightmare that is Soldier Field very well, in part because he seeks out tattered fields to practice on in Florida.

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A photo of Bears kicker Cairo Santos at a recent training camp practice.

Santos has made 90.3% of his field goals for the Bears over the last two seasons.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bears kicker Cairo Santos is accustomed to battling the NFL’s worst conditions, but he was hoping for at least a few good weeks at Soldier Field before the grass deteriorates.

Too bad.

He was dismayed by how rough the field was at the stadium for practice Tuesday, and it likely won’t be much better by Saturday, when the Bears open the preseason against the Chiefs, unless it gets resodded.

“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.”

Even without the wind and the eventual frigid temperatures, the playing surface itself continues to be a problem. And that’s a bad look for the city as it hopes to persuade the Bears to stay.

Players of all positions have had issues with it — “That’s just part of Soldier Field. . . . It’s gonna give a little bit, so you’ve gotta realize the surface you’re playing on and get adjusted,” defensive end Robert Quinn said — but Santos said it’s so uniquely bad that he has to find poorly maintained public parks in Florida to simulate it in the offseason.

“I was going to a turf field at a high school, which was perfect,” Santos said. “It was almost like, ‘OK. I’m getting too comfortable.’ So in my neighborhood, there’s a soccer field, and the grass is 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.”

Santos, by the way, has managed it just fine. He set the franchise record by hitting 93.8% of his field goals in 2020 and made 86.7% last season. That being said, it would be easy to guess where he stands on the possibility of the Bears moving to an indoor stadium in Arlington Heights.

Kmet out again

The Bears’ roster is so short on clear-cut starters that they can’t afford to lose any, and that’s especially true at tight end. Much like with quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears need to ascertain exactly what they have in Cole Kmet by the end of this season so they know if he’s a fixture for their future.

Kmet suffered an unspecified injury Tuesday at Soldier Field and remained out Wednesday. The team is expected to update his status Thursday.

Kmet is a key part of an offense that’s short on proven wide receivers and would be well-positioned for a breakout season if healthy. After a quiet rookie season, he upped his production to 60 catches for 612 yards last season.

After Kmet, none of the Bears’ tight ends had more than 27 catches last season. Their other two established tight ends — Ryan Griffin and James O’Shaughnessy — also were out Wednesday.

More injury concerns

The Bears were down 19 players on their active roster for practice, and that number included six who are considered starters — led by running back David Montgomery.

While most of those injuries are day-to-day, according to coach Matt Eberflus, they have significantly cut into their depth chart.

At corner, for example, their top five options after Jaylon Johnson all missed practice: Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, Thomas Graham, Tavon Young and Duke Shelley.

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