CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Panthers have placed kicker Graham Gano on injured reserve, and cut running back Cameron Artis-Payne and quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
Carolina made the decision Friday to lose Gano for the season after he struggled to make it back from an injury to his plant leg that kept him out of all four preseason games. The 32-year-old Gano has been the team's kicker since 2012 and missed just three field-goal attempts over the past two seasons.
Undrafted rookie Joey Slye, who was 7 of 8 on field-goal attempts in the preseason - including 3 of 3 from beyond 50 yards - will handle kicking duties for Carolina.
"Both Graham and the team were optimistic throughout this process that his leg would improve enough to allow him to kick," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said.
"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."
Per NFL rules, Gano will not be eligible to return at any point in 2019 because he was not included on the 53-man roster the Panthers are preparing to turn in before Saturday's deadline.
He was a Pro Bowler in 2017 after hitting 29 of 30 attempts.
He went 14 of 16 in 2018, including a career-long 63-yarder to beat the Giants at the end of regulation. He missed three point-after attempts last season.
Heinicke was the Panthers' No. 2 quarterback last season. He started one game but injured his arm. He fell to fourth on the team's depth chart this season behind Newton, Kyle Allen and third-round draft pick Will Grier and could never make up ground despite throwing two TD passes in Carolina's 25-19 preseason win over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
Heinicke posted a picture of the four quarterbacks together in the preseason and wrote on Twitter, "Man.... this one hurts! I don't know where to begin but gonna keep it short. Gonna miss all of you! Best locker room full of guys I've ever been with.. Hold it down this year fellas.. and as always #KeepPounding."
Artis-Payne has been a backup in Carolina for the past four seasons, but the team apparently has decided to go with Reggie Bonnafon and/or rookie Jordan Scarlett as Christian McCaffrey's backups instead.
Panthers cut veteran WR Smith
The Carolina Panthers on Sunday released veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith after claiming former Minnesota Vikings receiver Brandon Zylstra off waivers.
The Panthers traded for Smith, a two-time Super Bowl champion, in March 2018 to add veteran leadership to a young receiving corps. He came with a $5 million a year salary for 2018 and '19, then took a $2 million cut this offseason while rehabbing from a knee injury.
The Panthers will save $1.8 million in cap space by releasing Smith. Zylstra is set to count $480,000 against the 2018 cap. His contract runs through 2020.
Smith had 17 catches for 190 yards and two touchdown in 11 games, including six starts, for Carolina in 2018.
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