Cairo Santos walked into the Chiefs interview room on Monday afternoon, shook hands with a few waiting reporters and slowly pulled out a chair to sit down. Over the next 10 minutes, the Chiefs’ rookie kicker spoke in a collected manner as he replayed the dissatisfying first two weeks of his NFL career.
A day after missing a 37-yard field goal in a 24-17 loss to Denver — his second consecutive week with a missed field goal — Santos insisted he hasn’t lost confidence.
But his composed disposition shouldn’t be mistaken for a sense of job security.
“I know patience runs out in the NFL,” Santos said. “That’s something I’m aware of.”
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The patience, he fears, may be even thinner for an unproven rookie, who edged out veteran Ryan Succop for the job. It doesn’t help that Succop has made all five kicks with his new team in Tennessee, including four in an opening-week win in Kansas City.
Santos, the first Brazilian-born player to appear in an NFL game, is two for four with misses in each of the first two weeks.
“What the coaches told me was they tried to crack me during training camp and OTAs and preseason, and they said they couldn’t,” Santos said. “I was kicking really well and making the big kicks we had at practice. But now it stinks these things are popping up in the regular season, when I should be dialed in.”
Despite Santos’ early-season struggles, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he had no regrets about keeping the rookie over Succop.
The Chiefs signed Santos in May as an undrafted free agent. He won the 2012 Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best college kicker after he made all of his 21 field-goal attempts during his junior season at Tulane. He missed only one field goal under 40 yards in the final two years of his college career — and that kick was blocked.
“He hasn’t missed many field goals in his time, so this is a new experience for him,” Reid said. “Sometimes you get into a funk as a kicker, and you have to work your way out of it. He’s hitting it here early. He figures it out and works it out (and) he’ll have a nice, long, steady career.”
After the team returned from Denver, Santos said he watched film of his most recent miss.
While the kick sailed wide right, Santos picked up on a flaw in his preparation for it.
“We felt like from the time that (Reid) called a field goal to the time that I kicked the ball, it happened way too fast,” Santos said. “I just need to take my time, get to my spot, look at the uprights and trust the process.
“The NFL is a really fast game — something I’ve noticed from college — so sometimes you get caught in that moment and you rush everything.”
The film also showed a fundamental mishap. Santos said he noticed after his opening-week miss that his head popped up too quickly after he struck the ball — which he believes is another sign of rushing his technique.
He worked on the kink last week and said he made 21 of 22 field goals during team repetitions. But the problem re-emerged Sunday.
It will be another point of emphasis in practice this week, he said, before the team travels to Miami. Santos will have plenty of recognizable faces in the stands in Florida. His family is traveling from Brazil to watch him play in the NFL for the first time.
He remains confident he will impress.
“I’m not worried at all that I can’t kick the ball,” Santos said. “It’s process I’m learning from being a rookie — taking your time and just trusting the process.”