KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos has spent quality time getting ready for his first career trip to Gillette Stadium.
While the second-year pro continues to kick during practice, it is more about what he accomplished off the field in the past week.
Santos has been busy scouting to gain a better understanding how the wind conditions affect kicks at the New England Patriots’ outdoor venue.
“I reached out to a couple of kickers just to hear their experience kicking in that stadium,” Santos said, “and I watched every field goal and extra point at Gillette Stadium this year just to see how the ball moves.”
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub appeared genuinely pleased when told Santos called peers around the league to gain insight on the kicking conditions.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Toub said with a wide smile. “He’s a professional, he’s a true professional.”
Santos went 30 of 37 on field goal attempts during the regular season, and 39 of 41 on point-after-touchdown (PAT) attempts.
The common denominator in the seven missed field goals and two missed PAT attempts is they all occurred at outdoor venues. Santos taking the initiative to obtain a better understanding on what he is getting into at Gillette Stadium won’t be viewed as a bad thing.
“He’s going to leave no stone unturned, just like the kicking the laces drill and stuff like that,” Toub said. “He thinks of that stuff and we’re all onboard with it. Whatever it takes for him to feel comfortable and confident, it’s really what it is.”
While Santos didn’t name the NFL kickers he collected thoughts from, long snapper James Winchester pointed out kickers, punters and snappers around the league all know each other.
Winchester added Santos is familiar with a lot of the current NFL kickers from crossing paths in college and it only made sense for friends to talk to friends.
“It’s a smart thing to do, call around and see where the wind comes from,” Winchester said. “At Gillette Stadium, there’s kind of an open end on one side, so that has an effect on the wind, especially if you’re kicking into that goal post it can affect your kick a certain way. Doing your homework leading up to the game is a smart thing to do.”
The Chiefs opened the week practicing indoors at the team’s training facility before moving outdoors Wednesday.
Working indoors, however, doesn’t prevent Santos from joining Winchester, punter Dustin Colquitt, Toub and assistant special teams coach Brock Olivo outside to get in a few field goal kicks.
The three members of the field goal unit and two special teams coaches make it a point to get those snaps if the Chiefs are scheduled to play outdoors.
“If we’re practicing indoors, we sneak outside and hit a couple of balls and come back in,” Santos said. “You want to experience what you’re going to get in a game. We’ll even be doing wet ball drills to get ready for the rain, so we’ll do a lot of that preparation.”
The current forecast for Saturday’s game calls for morning rain, partly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the low 40s and 10-20 mph winds from the Northwest, according to Weather.com.
Obviously, the wind and chance for rain aren’t ideal conditions for kickers.
And Santos won’t have the luxury of kicking indoors like in the opening round of the playoffs when he went a perfect 3 of 3 on field goals and 3 of 3 on PATs against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.
But the kicker’s initiative to reconnoiter of Gillette Stadium by gathering information and watching film should have him in a good place when called upon to attempt field goals.
“I did a little bit of my homework and at the end of the day I think if I just strike the ball purely and high, it cuts through the wind and rain,” Santos said. “I’m just going to rely on having a solid warmup and just going in the game with confidence.”