Cario Santos' strong year continues, as the Bears kicker was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday morning:
So far, Santos has made the most of his opportunity while filling in for the injured Eddy Piñeiro, who's been sidelined since the start of camp with a groin issue. He's 10-12 on the season and has hit his last seven kicks – including a career-long 55-yarder in the Bears' 23-16 win over Carolina on Sunday.
After inconsistency had him bouncing around the league for a few years, Santos credits his 2020 results to a more simplified approach to studying his technique – though he admitted he's 'possibly sacrificing a little distance' with the changes. He equated it to how golfers, who spend a lot of time watching and tinkering with their swings, ultimately choose to focus more on rhythm and feel when they get out on the course.
"I think something that I have learned these last couple weeks is not thinking too much of the technique," he said. "We all have techniques that we change or that we try to focus on, but when it’s time to perform, I think feelings are greater than technique. I’ve been thinking a lot about my rhythm and just being smooth. And that way, it just takes me to what I’m trying to achieve with my technique."
Originally thought to be Piñeiro's place holder, the chances of Santos keeping the job regardless continue to grow with each made kick. Matt Nagy enthusiastically supported the kicker after Sunday's win, saying that the 55-yarder "didn't shock" him at all and that his confidence in Santos is rooted in their time together with the Chiefs.
And while he knows he's only a few missed kicks from the practice squad (or worse), Santos shrugged off any notion of a stressful kicking competition once Piñeiro gets healthy. Being a kicker in the NFL means getting used to a total lack of job security.
"Really my whole career I felt that way, because of how much you have to always prove in this league," Santos said. "I’m focused on where I’ll be next week, or who I’m playing for, if I’m the guy. I have a job right now and I’m focused on doing the job. One week at a time, the fate of it will take care of itself. It helps to narrow it down, too, instead of thinking about things you can’t control. I like to take those small steps."