It’s another season where the Bucs “kicker curse” or the “curse of Matt Bryant” has reared its ugly head. After missing two kicks last Sunday, including one from a close range of 30 yards, Chandler Catanzaro’s bags were packed and he was cut but the Bucs.
In comes Cairo Santos to exercise the Bucs kicking demons. Santos is best known for his days with Kansas City Chiefs, while also having some time with the Bears, Jets, and Rams. He had a promising career going before a groin injury derailed him for a time. He did recover this year with the Rams to replace a briefly injured Greg Zuerlein, but once Zuerlein returned, he was back on the market.
Santos is fully healthy now, and funny enough, had his sights set on Tampa Bay when he was a free agent for the first time.
“It was the top team that I wanted to land with,” Santos said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to come here with everything that happened, and bounced around a little. But to come full circle and land with my top priority team, it was a blessing.”
He would have good reason to want to kick for the Bucs, having one of the top offenses in the league. Santos even took to studying their special teams in hopes of soon playing for them.
“I’ve been watching these guys for a couple of weeks to see how they play,” Santos said. “I feel like I’m coming into a great spot, they’re very good at what they do. I love kicking for good offenses, it’s something that I’m used to, so hopefully we can get some extra points going more than field goals.”
The Bucs worked out Santos both last season and just a few weeks ago when they were deciding to make a change at kicker. There were concerns about his injured groin, but Santos has confirmed he is all set to go.
“Last year, I came here like two weeks after the injury,” Santos said. “So I was still dealing with that and it didn’t work out. Just got a physical and met everybody, and I played okay. I’ve been healthy since August, I had a good time with the Rams a couple weeks ago, so, no concern there, just looking forward to getting going with it.”
The front office has kept tabs on him the whole time, especially when it came to his injuries. Head coach Dirk Koetter said that the Bucs have put in the effort to study him.
“They’ve had their eye on him for quite a while,” Koetter said. “Cairo went through some injury issues when leaving Kansas City that have kind of lingered with him for a little bit. So he’s had some tryouts, bounced around to some teams. Organizationally, they’ve done a lot of work on him.”
One of the major adjustments that Santos will have to deal with is kicking on a grass field at Raymond James stadium that has caused problems for others. You first have to deal with the wind and chance for torrential downpours, then on top of that, USF plays there the day before, leaving conditions that are not as up to par as other fields.
Coach Koetter has been well aware of that, admitting they have the analytics on all the kicking stats. The results are not good.
“They got a ranking on it,” Koetter said.”I’m embarrassed to even tell you, so I won’t. It’s surprising where it’s ranked, it’s surprising based on the weather.” Koetter later confirmed it was in the bottom third of the league.
Santos understands, but has seen it all before.
“I’ve played in some tough places,” Santos said.”Three and a half years in Kansas City, Chicago, so I’m used to elements in not as normal places, and the wind, I’ve learned to kick a straight ball. My consistency is really well, that describes me the best.”
It didn’t take Santos long to be brought up to speed on the history of the Bucs kicker situation since after the Bucs cut Matt Bryant in 2008. They’ve had nine kickers in that time, which many people believe that the Bucs are cursed at the position with all the bad luck they’ve had. He apparently does not buy into that sentiment, and won’t let it phase him either.
“I don’t believe in that, personally,” Santos said about the Bucs kicking curse.”I think there is a lot of good things in this program to help the kicker succeed. You just got to adjust, and the biggest thing too is you got to hope for a good start. The start is kind of what gets you going positively or negative, so you have to be mentally strong to come in and get off to a good start.”
We’ll see if Santos can get that good start and end an almost decade’s long series of kicking woes.