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Panthers place Graham Gano on IR, ending his season

Carolina will play the 2019 season without longtime kicker Graham Gano.

The Panthers announced Friday that they are placing the Pro Bowl booter on injured reserve, ending his season before it begins. Gano had been sidelined late in training camp by a left leg injury.

"Both Graham and the team were optimistic throughout this process that his leg would improve enough to allow him to kick," general manager Marty Hurney said Friday in a statement. "Unfortunately, Graham still had pain in his plant leg each time he tried to resume kicking. These are tough decisions, and we discussed all options, but ultimately we decided to place Graham on injured reserve today."

Replacing the 11th-year veteran will be second-year kicker Joey Slye, an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech. Slye was nails in the preseason connecting on seven of eight field-goal attempts, including a 59-yarder on Thursday night, and all four of his extra-point attempts. Graham missed the final four games with a knee injury.

"It's super exciting," Gano said of Slye on Thursday night, per the team's website. "We've known from Day One here he's got a super strong leg. I get fired up on the sideline watching him make kicks. I remember being young and wanting those opportunities. It's cool to see him take advantage of it."

Gano has been a stalwart in Carolina since 2012, playing 98 games for the Panthers over seven years. He hit a league-high 96.7 percent of his field goals in 2017. Last season he hit 14 of 16 field goals, most memorably hitting a 63-yard game-winning field goal against the Giants in Week 5.

The kicker signed a four-year, $17 million extension with the team in March 2018 and has three years left on his deal. If and when Gano is healthy, he will likely reclaim his starting role.

That is unless Slye Wally-Pipps the veteran in 2019.

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