Cairo Santos trained at a rundown park to replicate conditions at Soldier Field

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Soldier Field is one of the most beloved venues in football, a Chicago landmark that has stood for generations. Whether that’s worth fighting for will be determined in the coming years with the Bears reportedly eyeing plans for a new stadium in nearby Arlington Heights.

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History and tradition aside, the field itself has seen better days, showing its age with patches of dead grass, uneven footing and hazardous clumps, among other areas of concern. Add in subfreezing temperatures and a steady diet of lake-effect snow and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, especially for kickers like Cairo Santos, who has long bemoaned the treacherous conditions at Solider Field.

“I’ve seen better,” Santos relayed to beat reporter Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just what we have to deal with. The less of a problem you make it in your mind, it helps you overcome it and just go.”

Now entering his third season in Chicago (not including a two-game cameo in 2017), Santos has learned to live with its imperfections, going to unusual lengths to replicate Soldier Field’s playing surface.

“I was going to a turf field at a high school, which was perfect,” said Santos, who trains in Florida during the offseason. “It was almost like, ‘Okay. I’m getting too comfortable.’ In my neighborhood, there’s a soccer field and the grass is Bermuda grass. It’s real long. I was like, ‘Okay. This is more like it.’”

Some might argue the relative disarray is part of Soldier Field’s blue-collar charm, presenting a challenging environment for all involved. Still, it’s somewhat alarming that Santos would compare an NFL facility to a run-of-the-mill public park, and not a particularly well-maintained one at that. For all his gripes about Soldier Field, Santos fared relatively well there last season, converting nine of 11 attempts (81.8 percent) with a long of 44 yards.

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