Chiefs not afraid to go with rookie kicker

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Rookie kicker Cairo Santos has proved at Kansas City Chiefs training camp that he has the physical ability to play in the NFL. Santos has showed a consistently strong leg. Both he and his competition for the job, incumbent Ryan Succop, have rarely missed a field goal attempt since the Chiefs arrived at Missouri Western State University.

That doesn’t change the fact that Santos is a rookie, which is a factor in the team's decision over which kicker to keep when the regular season begins. The Chiefs already know how Succop will respond to a slump. He missed what would have been the game-winning field goal attempt in last year’s final regular-season game against San Diego, but bounced back the next week to go 3-for-3 in the playoff game against Indianapolis.

In that regard, Santos is a great unknown. But the Chiefs don’t appear afraid to venture into that territory if it comes to that.

In that sense, Santos might be better off in the long run to miss a field goal attempt in the preseason. That would allow the Chiefs a chance to see how he responds.

“Does he make his next kick?’’ special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “We’ll see that and how he responds and how he acts, what his body language is like. Those are things we’ve got to evaluate.

“He’s doing well. He’s competing. It’s a real battle. The preseason games are going to tell us a lot.

Toub has coached some outstanding special teams with the Chicago Bears and then last season with the Chiefs. He’s never started the season with a rookie kicker, though the Bears in 2005 picked up Robbie Gould partway through his rookie season.

Gould has gone on to become one of the NFL’s best kickers, which could ease Toub’s fears about going with a rookie this time.

“If he wins the job,’’ Toub said, “we’ll feel good.’’