After getting released by four NFL teams in just over a one-year span, Cairo Santos finally found a home again last year.
In his first full season with the Bears, the Brazilian kicker set franchise records for consecutive field goals and field-goal percentage in a season (93.8), making his final 27 straight attempts to finish the year 30 of 32.
Seeking the stability that had eluded him in recent years, Santos signed a three-year contract extension with the Bears March 11—six days before he could have become an unrestricted free agent.
"I was telling my agent all along in the process I'm rooting for this thing to work out," Santos said Tuesday during a video call with reporters. "That's where my heart is, to remain with these guys."
Santos is excited to continue working with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, long-snapper Patrick Scales and holder Pat O'Donnell. Scales and O’Donnell both also recently agreed to new contracts with the Bears.
"Working with Tabor and Pat O'Donnell, Pat Scales, I think I would take that over anything in this league," Santos said. "The band is back together, the same group of guys. I feel like we're already so far ahead of the process. We're not going to miss a beat going into [this] year."
“To me, it’s a dream come true to have a home again, something that I’ve been searching for the last several years.” Bears kicker Cairo Santos
Santos originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Chiefs in 2014. He experienced immediate success, converting 84.8 percent of his field-goal attempts (89 of 105) during his first four seasons. But after aggravating a groin injury in a Week 3 win in 2017, he was placed on injured reserve and then released by Kansas City.
Santos signed with the Bears later that season. He appeared in two games, making 1 of 2 field-goal tries, but he hurt his groin again and landed on injured reserve. Santos' nomadic journey continued in 2018-19 with the Jets, Rams, Buccaneers and Titans—all of whom eventually released him.
"At times I wondered if I'd ever actually recover from these types of injuries—multiple injuries in the groin," Santos said. "A lot of it wasn't if I could still be the accurate kicker that I once was or the [strength]. It was just like if my body was going to allow me to. That was going to be a big disappointment if I just couldn't get over that hurdle.
"There were parts of those years that I was still playing that I just didn't feel like I was popping the ball the way I used to. It was more clear, the season I had last year, that I got back to myself—if not even stronger. Those years I was playing in Tampa, bouncing around, I was not as strong as I was this past year and as strong as I wanted to be. It was tough battling and doubting if I was going to be able to get there just because the body was not responding how I wanted it to."
It was clear to Santos and the Bears that he had regained his strength and pop last summer when he participated in a kicking combine staged by former NFL kicker John Carney.
"The Bears were one of the teams who were present, and I had a great day," Santos said. "All those months, that was preparation where you were just waiting for that one opportunity. I had the faith that it was going to come and I just had to be ready for it. I was in a position where I just had to take advantage of my next opportunity or it would be over. I'm proud of the way everything worked out and where I ended up.
"To me, it's a dream come true to have a home again, something that I've been searching for the last several years. It means a lot to have that, I don't want to call it stability, because as a kicker you're always on your toes, but just to see the future more than just one week at a time."