Bucs' new kicker Cairo Santos: 'I'm hoping to be the right guy'

Kicker Cairo Santos (3) spent a couple of games with the Rams this season filling in for Greg Zuerlein before signing with Tampa Bay. Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new kicker, Cairo Santos, doesn't believe in kicking curses, even if Sunday he will become the Bucs' 10th kicker to start a game since 2009 -- the most of any team in the NFL during that span. However, he certainly empathizes with fans who have seen enough to believe there is one.

"I'm just looking to come in and be myself and help the team, hopefully help heal the wounds that have been created," said Santos, who signed with the Bucs on Tuesday after the team waived Chandler Catanzaro.

"I don't believe in [the kicking curse] personally, but I think there [are] a lot of good things in this program to help the kicker succeed, and you’ve just gotta adjust. The biggest thing is you've gotta hope for a good start. The start is kinda what gets you going, positively or negatively. You've just gotta be mentally strong to come in and get off to a good start."

The Bucs were Santos' top choice last season when he took a visit last October, but he was still dealing with an adductor strain when they were looking for a replacement for Nick Folk. They wound up signing Patrick Murray instead.

"Sometimes teams just go through those phases trying to find the right guy," Santos said. "I'm hoping to be the right guy."

A native of Sao Paulo, Santos learned American football as a foreign-exchange student in high school in Saint Augustine, Florida. He went on to win the Lou Groza Award at Tulane, and entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014. He spent four seasons there (2014-2017), putting together a seven-field goal performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015 -- including two from 50-plus yards -- and nailing a 34-yard game winner in overtime against the Denver Broncos in 2016.

A groin injury ended his time with the Chiefs last season. He had a two-game stint with the Chicago Bears last year and a two-game stint with the Los Angeles Rams this year, stepping in for injured Greg Zuerlein. He went 5-for-6 on field goals and 5-of-6 on extra points with the Rams, but he was released Oct. 16 once Zuerlein returned. He was in Tampa just a few days later.

"We kicked into a tough wind. My only miss came from 59 [yards]," Santos said of his tryout. "But we were able to hit a couple 50-plus into that wind, and I kicked off well into that wind. It was a very solid workout. I've had five workouts this year and I went 45-for-47 in those workouts, so I feel really good where I'm at right now. Just hopefully it'll translate into games."

Coach Dirk Koetter said Santos has had a nice first week.

"He made all of his kicks Wednesday, and then they went over to [Raymond James Stadium] and kicked some," Koetter said. "I think he kicked 35 field goals yesterday -- it was something like 32 out of 35. That's a good start."

Santos is a career 95-of-113 on field goals (84.1 percent). By comparison, Dustin Hopkins is a career 84.9 percent, Matt Prater is 83.5 percent, Justin Tucker is 90.1 and Dan Bailey is 87.6. Santos is also 22-of-29 (75.9 percent) on kicks of 40 or more yards, and 7-of-13 on kicks of 50 or more yards (53.8 percent). On extra points, he's 132-of-138 (95.7 percent).

How does he avoid experiencing a snowball effect like what Catanzaro experienced Sunday against the Redskins, missing kicks of 30 and 48 yards?

"I think that comes with years and practice and experience, even dating back to high school and college," Santos said. "I think we've been through all these moments -- highs and lows -- and you just have to have a short memory. It's not really an exercise that I do. It's just having that mindset, 'A make or a miss, the last kick doesn't matter.' I just flip that chapter, that page really fast into focusing on the next kick, because it can happen in the next drive or the next game. You've just gotta have your mind ready. You can't take anything for granted."