Cairo Santos highlights ‘sandy' field conditions at Soldier Field


Leave it to the Bears to dig a hole for themselves. Literally. 

After the weekend's Elton John concert at Soldier Field, the grass was left looking dead and riddled with holes. It looks like someone shut the water off for a few weeks.

That would make for a pretty comical retaliation from Mayor Lori Lightfoot surrounding the Bears' departure from Soldier Field and downtown Chicago. A real hardball tactic. 

Bears kicker Cairo Santos detailed the "sandy" field and holes that led to a challenging day of training camp for the veteran. It's something he's learned to "deal with" during his tenure with the Bears. 

How does he work with it?

"I learned last year," Santos said. "There were spots yesterday that we noticed and we talked about with Trent[on] [Gill] because he’s new. Look, if we have a field goal right here, we have to move it maybe off the hash. Or maybe on the field more, inside the hash more, just to get away from this hole."

Healthy, even-level grass shouldn't be too much to ask for a professional football team. Yet, the Bears' field is a notorious, ongoing issue that stems back from their switch to real grass in 1988. 

Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould often mentioned the ridiculous kicking conditions at the stadium. Whether it be the grass itself or the windy, frigid conditions the city offers -- it's not ideal. 

Even defensive end Robert Quinn spoke about the field.

"That's just part of Soldier Field," Quinn said. "You realize what you're playing with. The grass and how it's not like turf where it's gonna stick. It's gonna give a little bit so you've just gotta realize the surface you're playing on and get adjusted. We practice on the grass anyway. You try to get adjusted as best as possible. If it don't work, try new cleats and, well, you'll figure it out."

Some players are familiar with playing through the conditions. For others, especially those who kick the ball off the ground, it takes a bigger adjustment. 

But, a veteran like Santos is preparing for the situation, which begins Saturday with the team's lone preseason game at Soldier Field. He mentioned his offseason plan incorporates kicking on rougher surfaces like the team's home turf. 

"It's funny because I was training in Florida in Jacksonville and I was going to a turf field at a high school, which was perfect," Santos said. "It was almost like, 'OK. I'm getting too comfortable.' So, in my neighborhood there's a soccer field and the grass is a bermuda grass. It's real long. I was like, 'OK. This is more like it.' The ball flies different. It's not super even all the time. Soldier's not super even either. It's good to be uncomfortable, and feeling comfortable when you're uncomfortable."

Despite the conditions, Santos has been a reliable leg for the team through his first two seasons in Chicago. He's played in every game in both seasons he's been with the Bears. During that span, he's missed six field goals of the 62 he's attempted for a 90 percent field goal rate. He's only missed two extra points since joining the Bears as well. 

Santos accounts for 231 points since his arrival in Chicago. After the Cody Parkey, Eddy Piñeiro, Elliott Fry conundrum, he's a breath of fresh air. 

Soldier Field's grass issue could be another talking point in relation to the Bears' inevitable departure to Arlington Heights. The new stadium would likely have synthetic turf and a dome to decrease misfires from kickers. 

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