Panthers kicker Graham Gano is progressing well in his recovery from knee surgery, special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn tells Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. Gano was placed on IR towards the end of the 2018 season with a fractured femur, and though he was on the field during the early stages of training camp in 2019, he was unable to shake the injury and ultimately went under the knife.
Joey Slye took over kicking duties in Gano’s absence last year, hitting 78.1% of his field goal attempts, not a particularly strong mark. He also missed four PATs.
Gano, meanwhile, was tremendous in his last full season in 2017, sinking 29 of his 30 field goal tries for a league-leading 96.7% conversion rate (with his only miss coming from 50-yard territory). That performance earned him the first Pro Bowl bid of his career, and it also helped him secure a four-year, $17MM contract from Carolina the following offseason. His AAV of $4.25MM positions him as the fifth-highest-paid kicker in the game.
Because injured players have been allowed to be in team facilities even during the pandemic, Gano has been able to do some kicking work in familiar surroundings. Head athletic trainer Kevin King reported that Gano looks good, and it sounds as if he and Slye will be battling it out this summer.
“The (kicking) battle as far as that’s concerned, I mean, in reality, we’re in a very, very blessed situation, because we got two very capable kickers with really talented legs,” Blackburn said. “There’s plenty of teams around the NFL right now that would be very excited to have the competition that we have going. But at the biggest part right now, I haven’t seen (Gano) kick or anything, we’re just working on this offseason program and we’re just trying to finish this strong.”
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