Gano takes Medlock’s job, Kasay’s number for Panthers

jjones@charlotteobserver.comNovember 22, 2012 

For the first time in franchise history, a player other than John Kasay – and another kicker, no less – will don the No. 4 jersey for Carolina in a regular-season game. But Graham Gano got Kasay’s blessing before outrage could set in.

And starting at kicker for the Carolina Panthers, No. 4 … Graham Gano?

For the first time in franchise history, a player other than John Kasay – and another kicker, no less – will don the No. 4 jersey for Carolina in a regular-season game.

But Gano got Kasay’s blessing before outrage could set in.

“I talked to John Kasay about it. I know him pretty well,” said Gano, who wore No. 43 at Florida State and No. 4 with the Redskins. “We talked about it and he was fine about that. It was my number I had before, so I feel comfortable with that.

“John was a great kicker. He’s a guy I watched for years. I love the No. 4, so I feel very happy to be able to wear it here.”

Gano replaces Justin Medlock, who was cut Tuesday after three straight games with a missed field goal. Medlock had a kick blocked against Washington and missed an attempt in the Denver and Tampa Bay games.

Though Medlock started the season 7-for-7 and was efficient on kickoffs, the final straw for coach Ron Rivera was the missed 40-yarder against the Bucs that would have extended the Panthers’ second-quarter lead.

“It was a tough decision because the young man is promising, but in light of the situation ... we’ve got to move on,” Rivera said. “He’s got to make those kicks.

“(Gano) was a guy who’s been in the league and had a real nice showing the other day. We’ll see if this guy can help us.”

Gano, who signed a two-year deal, was cut by the Redskins in August in favor of veteran Neil Rackers and was a free agent until Tuesday’s tryout. Since August, Gano had been in Leesburg, Va., practicing at a local middle school.

Gano tried out against veteran Nate Kaeding and won the job based on his leg, his array of kickoffs and the fact that Kaeding would be a free agent at the end of the season. Statistically, Gano and Medlock had similar accuracy percentages on field goals, and Medlock had a higher touchback percentage during his short career.

“We saw tape on him and we watched him during the workout and there were a lot of positives,” Rivera said. “He kicked the ball very well, he kicked field goals from all over the field for us. In fact, he hit a 62-yarder.

“And then on the kickoffs, the first one he kicked to the dummies behind the end zone. It was pretty impressive.”

Long snapper J.J. Jansen and holder Brad Nortman said the biggest adjustment will be getting the timing and rhythm down. Medlock is a left-footed kicker, so Nortman’s holds will have to change for the righty Gano.

“Luckily I’ve held for a righty in college and (last year’s starting kicker) Olindo (Mare) in the preseason,” Nortman said. “Even though I haven’t done it for a couple of months, once you do a few it’s like riding a bike and it comes right back to you.”

Jones: 704-358-5223; Twitter: @jjones9

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