— The Chiefs placed kicker Cairo Santos on injured reserve Tuesday and signed rookie kicker Harrison Butker, a seventh-round draft by the Carolina Panthers in this year’s draft.
Santos continues to battle a groin injury that slowed him during training camp and kept him out of three preseason games. He returned for the team’s final preseason game, handling extra point and field goal attempts. The return to action convinced Santos and the Chiefs the fourth-year veteran was ready to return for full regular duties.
Butker, a rookie from Georgia Tech, nearly unseated Panthers kicker Graham Gano during the preseason. He was perfect on four extra point tries during the preseason and connected on field goals from 46 and 51 yards. He averaged 64.5 yards on kickoffs while recording seven touchbacks on 11 kicks. Opponents averaged 26 yards on four kickoffs returns.
Santos performed well through the first three games, converting all 12 extra point and three field goal attempts.
He took a nasty shot to his right leg, his kicking leg, during Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins hit Santos in the knee with his helmet, drawing a 15-yard penalty for roughing the kicker. Santos limped off the field, but later returned to the game hitting a 39-yard field goal and handling and extra point and two kickoffs.
The Chiefs believe the groin injury Santos sustained during training camp stems from a college injury. Santos sustained a groin injury while at Tulane. Team trainers believe scar tissue from that injury caused the recent aggravation for Santos.
Sending Santos to injured reserve means the team could designate him to return later in the season. Teams can designate two players on injured reserve later in the season. The team hopes cornerback Steven Nelson can claim one of those two spots. The team placed Nelson on injured reserve prior to the first week of the season with a core muscle injury. Nelson is eligible to return from practice after the week six game Oct. 15 against Pittsburgh. He could return to the active roster as soon as week nine against the Dallas Cowboys.
If Santos returns this season, he’s eligible to practice six weeks from now, which falls during the team’s bye week after their week nine matchup at the Dallas Cowboys. He can return to the active roster as soon as week 12 against the Buffalo Bills.
Santos signed a $1.797 one-year contract as a restricted free agent during the offseason. He is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017 season.