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Rams cut kicker Sam Ficken and sign Cairo Santos while awaiting Greg Zuerlein's return

Rams cut kicker Sam Ficken and sign Cairo Santos while awaiting Greg Zuerlein's return
Cairo Santos (5) kicks an extra point for the Kansas City Chiefs with Dustin Colquitt holding against the Buffalo Bills in November 2014. The Rams signed Santos on Tuesday. (Bill Wippert / Associated Press)

The Rams are a Super Bowl favorite, but they recognize their vulnerabilities.

They moved to address one Tuesday by releasing kicker Sam Ficken and signing veteran Cairo Santos.

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Santos, 26, made 90 of 107 field-goal attempts during three-plus seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and part of last season with the Chicago Bears.

He was released by the New York Jets during training camp.

The Rams also worked out kicker Kai Forbath, who was cut by the Minnesota Vikings in August.

The Rams’ kicking carousel began after Greg Zuerlein, the NFL’s leading kicker last season, suffered a groin injury during warm-ups for a Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Coach Sean McVay said Monday that there was “a possibility” that Zuerlein would be available for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Rams were off Tuesday, so McVay did not speak to reporters. Santos presumably was signed in case Zuerlein needs more time.

Ficken’s second regular-season stint with the Rams did not go as well as the first.

Last year, the Rams signed Ficken after Zuerlein suffered a Week 15 back injury that required season-ending surgery. Ficken proved mostly reliable — he made four of five field-goal attempts — as the Rams won the NFC West and advanced to the playoffs before losing to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Rams re-signed Ficken after the season as a precaution in case Zuerlein suffered a setback in his recovery. Ficken was released at the end of training camp because Zuerlein appeared to be fully recovered.

Zuerlein kicked four field goals in a season-opening victory at Oakland, and then suffered the groin injury the next week. The Rams immediately called Ficken and signed him before their Week 3 game against the Chargers.

Ficken got off to a shaky start, missing a 46-yard field-goal attempt and also shanking a kickoff out of bounds.

In last Thursday’s 38-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Ficken made a 34-yard field goal in the third quarter but missed a 28-yard attempt in the fourth that would have increased the Rams’ lead to 41-28.

The Vikings then drove for a field goal that pulled them to within seven points with 3 minutes 46 seconds left.

“When we get a chance to go up 13 in a game that’s been back and forth, those are plays that we have to be able to make, and make them consistently,” McVay said during a teleconference Friday.

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At the time, McVay stopped short of saying that the Rams were considering a change. He said Zuerlein was “making progress” toward a return but did not provide a timetable.

On Monday, McVay said the coaching staff was “still evaluating” the kicking situation.

Return engagement

The Rams had a good time during their last trip to Seattle.

They dismantled the Seahawks — and shifted the power in the NFC West — with a 42-7 rout that silenced the famous “12th Man” crowd at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 17, 2017.

“We didn’t want to let up,” Rams running back Todd Gurley said after the game. “These guys have been kicking our ass for the last 10, 15 years, so you got to enjoy it.

“You’ve got to take advantage of a situation like this.”

The Rams have mostly been riding high since that victory, which helped them win the division, advance to the postseason for the first time since 2004 and lay the groundwork for this season’s confidence and fast start.

The Rams, at 4-0, are the NFC’s only unbeaten team.

“It’s a new year,” defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks said when asked about last season’s game at Seattle, “so we just have to keep proving ourselves.”

The Rams did that in Seattle in 2017 behind Gurley, who rushed for 152 yards and scored four touchdowns, and a defense that sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson seven times.

“Last year was last year,” McVay said. “We're really looking to see what can we do to get better this year, to get better this week and we know that is a very, very difficult place to play.”

The Seahawks started the season with losses against the Denver Broncos and the Bears, but they evened their record with victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Cardinals.

Etc.

The Rams waived linebacker Carlos Thompson, who had been on injured reserve, and cut defensive end Marcus Martin from the practice squad. Defensive lineman Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and defensive back Linden Stephens were signed to the practice squad …. The Rams resume practice Wednesday.

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