Looks like anyone can be a kicker in the NFL.
With less than two hours before their game in Buffalo on Sunday, the Panthers were forced to hold a positional tryout after kicker Zane Gonzalez (quad) was ruled out. The former Arizona Cardinal injured himself practicing short-range field goals during warmups.
Carolina scrambled to find a replacement for Gonzalez, as they do not have another kicker on the roster. With 90 minutes until kickoff, the team held a tryout for the role, reportedly letting any player regardless of their position kick.
Those who partook included punter Lachlan Edwards, receiver Brandon Zylstra, linebacker Frankie Luvu and running back Reggie Bonnafon, who each took turns kicking during pregame warmups. In addition, quarterback P.J. Walker, who kicked in high school, attempted a field goal.
For most of them – including Walker – the results were less than stellar.
While Edwards might have seemed like the obvious choice for the job, he did not have any prior experience placekicking. In the end, the Panthers went with Zylstra to kick off, which he said he hadn’t done since another desperate situation in high school.
“My senior year, we had our starting kicker go down,” Zylstra said. “So I filled in. That’s how I got that job. How this one kind of came about is, coach Chase [Blackburn] was walking around the locker room before the game. [He] said Zane hurt himself and was just asking who had prior kicking experience.
“I was like, ‘I did it a few times back in high school.’”
Without a kicker, Carolina passed up two field goal attempts, went for two after both of its touchdowns and converted once. The Bills stopped the Panthers on four of five fourth-down attempts for the 31-14 win.
Gonzalez has been crucial to the Panthers’ scoring all season. The team is onto its second offensive coordinator, its third quarterback, and is without Christian McCaffrey — who will be out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
Gonzalez remains Carolina’s most consistent scorer, making 20 of his 22 field goal attempts this season.