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Is the Panthers' Joey Slye really ready to be an NFL kicker? We find out Sunday.

Scott Fowler, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Football

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The way Joey Slye found out he would be the Carolina Panthers' kicker Sunday in the regular-season opener was unusual: the guy whose job he was taking broke the news.

Slye was in the Panthers' cold tub when Graham Gano walked in, having just been informed the Panthers were placing him on injured reserve for the entire 2019 season due to continuing leg problems.

"Graham said, 'Hey, they just put me on long-term IR – so congratulations,'" Slye recalled. "And then we just kind of talked after that. Graham has been great to me."

Gano has been the Panthers' kicker since 2012, But he re-injured his plant leg -- the same leg that forced him to miss the final four games of the 2018 season -- and somebody had to replace him.

That somebody turns out to be Slye, the former Virginia Tech kicker whose impressive NFL preseason included hitting three field goals of more than 50 yards and making seven field goals in eight attempts overall (the eighth was blocked).

Said Panthers quarterback Cam Newton of a recent conversation he had with Slye: "I told him two weeks ago ... if you keep kicking the way you're kicking, you're going to kick yourself right into a job. And that's what he did."

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Slye became one of the Panthers' best stories of August. He was first hired to merely ease Gano's workload for a few weeks during training camp, and only packed enough clothes for a week and has been washing them at a coin-operated laundromat in Charlotte.

But after making three field goals in Carolina's first preseason game, Slye has ended up sticking around long enough to acquire his own nickname from Newton. "Swole Tweeder," apparently in reference to both Slye's muscular build and his resemblance to actor Scott Caan, who played Charlie Tweeder in the 1999 high-school football movie "Varsity Blues."

At 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Slye looks more like an undersized NFL linebacker than a kicker. "He may have the least body fat on a kicker in the last decade of kickers, honest to God," Newton said.

Of course, it doesn't matter what a kicker looks like. It matters if he can kick the ball through the goalposts. Accuracy questions have dogged Slye since his career at Virginia Tech, where he made only 68.2% of his field goals as a senior in 2017.

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