Zane Gonzalez becomes the latest in a series of Carolina Panther kickers. Will he last?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Zane Gonzalez, a former NFL kicker for Cleveland and Arizona who was most recently was on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad, said he woke up Tuesday morning to a call from his agent saying he had been claimed by the Carolina Panthers.

Gonzalez packed his belongings, hopped on a flight from Detroit to Charlotte and arrived later that night. A few hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, he stood in front of the Charlotte media for his first press conference as a Panther.

“I was happy,” Gonzalez said of being signed by the Panthers. “I love the guys here, I enjoyed my experience here (in a summer minicamp) and I like the city a lot.”

Gonzalez, 26, was one of five veteran players who tried out for the Panthers during the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. He said he thought there was a possibility he could end up back in Carolina but had hoped it would be sooner than Week 2.

“I was pretty much perfect,” Gonzalez said of his minicamp tryout.

But, at the time, the team was committed to Joey Slye as its placekicker.

The Panthers’ kicking situation has looked like a revolving door in the past three weeks, however. The Panthers released Slye last month after two seasons. They traded a conditional seventh-round pick to the New York Giants for Ryan Santoso.

But Santoso didn’t last long. He was waived on Tuesday, after making two field goals but missing an extra point in Carolina’s 19-14 win over the New York Jets. Had Santoso stayed on the roster for one more game, the Panthers would have had to give up that seventh-round pick in exchange for him. Because he only played in one game, the Panthers kept the pick.

“I just felt it was time to move on,” coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday. “Obviously, we had Zane in minicamp. He was accurate. He was a guy that we liked at the time. He was available, and we made that decision.”

When pressed further, Rhule said: “I won’t beat up on people who are not here. We just felt it was the right thing across the board.”

The Panthers signed Gonzalez on Tuesday shortly after cutting kicker Santoso. Because he was signed from the Lions’ practice squad, he will likely be on the active roster (and will get paid) for three weeks. So unless Gonzalez misses several kicks and the Panthers are desperate enough to have two active kickers on the roster at the same time — which is rare, although they have done it before — Gonzalez is probably going to be the kicker for at least the next three weeks.

NFL kickers form an unofficial fraternity, and Gonzalez knows both Santoso and Slye. He said Slye, now kicking for the Houston Texans, sent him a congratulatory text message Tuesday when the news broke.

“That just speaks to his character, honestly,” Gonzalez said of Slye’s congratulatory text.

Gonzalez has kicked for five years in the NFL, with his best year being 2019, when he hit 31 of 35 field goals in Arizona. He has hit 78% of his field goals in his career (71 of 91).

Of his frequent travels, Gonzalez said: “It’s a business and security comes at a premium basically. Any week you could be anywhere. So you just have to earn your keep every week.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting