Background music, a kid-led cheering selection, coaches’ whistles and player banter fill one of the Chiefs’ practice fields, packed with activity.
One field over, three players and an assistant coach do their thing in quiet concentration.
Kicker Cairo Santos, punter Dustin Colquitt and long snapper James Winchester work with assistant Brock Olivo on their games. The absence of competition is noticeable.
Last year, Winchester was locked in battle with Andrew East. Two years ago, Santos beat out veteran Ryan Succop.
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Colquitt, the graybeard of the group after joining the Chiefs in 2005, has conquered three training camp competitions for his job, the latest in 2012.
The group looks to begin its second season together and without job challenges, which can be a luxury.
“We know what these guys are, and they’re coming in at a high level,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. “It’s something I really don’t have to worry about and I can focus on the cover guys.”
The operation produced solid results in the Chiefs’ 2015 playoff season. Santos’ 30 field goals included seven in one game against the Bengals, a team record.
Colquitt was his usual effective self, ranking third in the NFL with 37 punts that forced opponents to start inside their 20.
Winchester, in his first NFL season, performed well until hitting a snag late in the season that resulted in a couple of missed field goals and a botched extra point.
But the Chiefs kept the faith, and in this election year, the individuals in the kicking operation are running unopposed.
“It’s an advantage in the sense we get all of our reps with each other,” said Colquitt, who also serves as the holder on place-kicking snaps. “We have the time to know each other tendencies.”
This year, no member of the kicking operation is wondering how the other job candidate is faring. Competition can provide sharpness, but Santos said he doesn’t need it to be competitive.
“I look at two ways,” Santos said. I’m thankful to be the only guy here. It’s more time for us to get comfortable with each other, get the operation smooth and get a good rhythm. That’s so important to being successful throughout the season, working with the same guys.
“But I also look it another way. I’m competing against myself. I have to keep up, to perform day in and day out because I’m being analyzed and compared to other kickers.”
If he goes nine of 10 from a certain distance during one practice, Santos said he has to kick at least that well or even more accurate the next time.
“Whether somebody is here pushing me or not, I’m pushing myself to be perfect,” he said. “From the time I got here, I realized we were in a ‘what have you done for me lately,’ league. I’m never going to take the foot off the gas because I’m the only kicker here, or say that it’s OK to miss.
“I want to show these coaches that they made the right decision to have me here by myself.”