TAMPA, Fla. - It's the closest competition in camp so far. Finally, the Bucs have a good kicking problem.
Two kickers that splitting the uprights consistently. The veteran Cairo Santos and this year's fifth-round pick Matt Gay. Each trying to get a leg up on the other.
"Happy we are both pushing each other," said Santos. "It's been a great camp for both of us."
"Can't say enough about Cairo," said Gay. "He's a great guy. He's a great kicker. He's been killing it. He's kicking the ball really well, which I appreciate because it's pushing me to be better."
Santos stabilized the Bucs kicking woes last November after signing with the team for the last seven games. He was perfect in extra points and drilled 9 of 12 field goal attempts.
The Bucs re-signed Santos in March. He thought the job was his.
So was Santos surprised when the Bucs drafted a kicker?
"A bit surprised," said Santos. "I expected some competition and we had a kicker here at the time. Surprised at the time, but not really also because this is the NFL."
The two have been highly accurate in the early days of camp. Tuesday was the first day that there was more than one miss. Cairo's career-long is 53-yards, but after watching Matt Gay booming them, Cairo has found more power in his leg.
"I hit a 61-yarder today that is probably as good as I've ever hit," said Santos. "I'm just pleased that I've been able to get to where I know I can be 100%."
Gay has caught Bruce Arians early in camp. Especially on Saturday when Gay went 10 for 10.
“That was a bomb," said Arians. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen one from 57 [yards] go over the windows. The one he hit the upright, if you can tell, that upright’s bent, but it went in too. He was 10-for-10. Cairo [Santos] had a great set yesterday, just missed from 55. It’s going to be a heck of a competition.”
"I live to hit the ball hard," said Gay. "I guess I'm known for hitting a stronger leg, so I just continue to hit as long as the 'thump' goes through."
The competition is far from over, but at least it's off on the right foot.