New Bears kicker Cairo Santos’ familiar mentor: Robbie Gould
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Having missed a kick in each of his first two regular-season games as a rookie, Cairo Santos’ career was teetering just as it was getting started.
Robbie Gould noticed.
Two games into the 2014 season, he asked Pat O’Donnell for the then-Chiefs kicker’s phone number — the Bears punter knew him from predraft workouts — and reached out with advice.
The former Bears kicker kept checking in with Santos the rest of the season, even as Santos got into a groove, making 23 of his 26 remaining field goals.
“It’s a small world, and Robbie’s one of the most respected guys,” said Santos, whom the Bears signed Monday to replace Connor Barth. “One, for the kind of guy he is, and, two, for having so much success here in a place like Chicago. He was a little bit of my mentor.”
Santos credits Chiefs special-teams coordinator Dave Toub — “A Chicago Bears legend when he was here,” he said — for helping to guide his successful career. He made 88.6 percent of his tries last year, the fifth-best mark of anyone with more than 15 attempts.
The 26-year-old was only available to the Bears because the Chiefs cut him when he aggravated a groin injury after three games this season. Santos was in the last year of his contract, lessening the motivation for them to stash him on injured reserve.
Santos, who worked out for the Bears last week, said his groin is healed.
“The muscle, it’s in good shape to come and take a full load of the week’s practice and games,” he said.
Soldier Field’s wintry tricks shouldn’t be much of a surprise to Santos after four years in Kansas City. Barth, by contrast, had spent five seasons with the warm-weather Buccaneers, playing two-thirds of his divisional road games indoors.
“[Santos has] kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations, and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”
The first native of Brazil to make an opening-day NFL roster, Santos kicked indoors at Tulane before learning how to kick in poor weather as a pro.
“I played in really bad stuff — in the rain and snow, 3 degree weather last year, playoffs, cold playoffs at home, away — so I’ve kinda gone through it all,” said Santos, who has played one preseason game at Soldier Field. “I think I’ve learned to hit a straight ball and just kinda do the things I can control — to not think about the elements.”
He’ll have to wait a week before his Soldier Field debut. Santos knows whom he’ll call beforehand — Gould, now with the 49ers, whose golf tournament he plays in every year.
“I talked to him when I was on my way here,” he said, “and I plan to call him a few times, too, especially next week when we play at Soldier.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.