Carolina Panthers kicker Zane Gonzalez injures quad in pregame warm-ups, ruled out

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Monday, December 20, 2021

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Carolina Panthers lost kicker Zane Gonzalez to a right quad injury suffered during warm-ups before Sunday's 31-14 loss against theBuffalo Bills.

Gonzalez was attempting short-range field goals when he went to his knees on the field that had been dusted by light sleet and snow. He had to be helped off the field by deep-snapper J.J. Jansen and other team officials.

The 26-year-old has hit 17 straight field goals since missing one in an Oct. 3 game at Dallas.

Once the game started, the Panthers passed up a field goal try and failed to convert fourth-and-9 from Buffalo's 24 to end their second possession. They converted one of two 2-point attempts.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said after the game that losing Gonzalez definitely impacted strategy, noting his plan was to grind it out, take field goals when he could and play good defense. Carolina had to gamble on fourth down five times, making it only once.

Among those was a fourth-and-10 play that Rhule said he never would have attempted had Gonzalez been available.

"So all that was unique and hard in terms of preparing, and also our third-down calls changed the minute that happened,'' Rhule said.

The Panthers immediately went into emergency tactics to replace Gonzalez before the game.

Punter Lachlan Edwards began practicing onside kicks and dropkicks from short field goal range. Linebacker Frankie Luvu, wide receiver Brandon Zylstra and running back Reggie Bonnafon also practiced kicking off.

Quarterback P.J. Walkerattempted a field goal before the game and missed.

Zylstra ultimately kicked off, something he hadn't done since high school and even that was an emergency situation.

"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.'"

Wes Welker is the only position player to make a field goal in a game since 2000, converting a 29-yard attempt for the Miami Dolphins in a game against the New England Patriots in 2004, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Five different position players have attempted a PAT since 2000.

The Panthers signed Gonzalez off the Detroit practice squad on Sept. 14. He has been named the NFC special teams player of the week twice.