The Carolina Panthers won their final preseason game against the Buffalo Bills Friday night, 21-0, but they did suffer a couple of losses. Backup quarterback Sam Darnold went down with an , and kicker Zane Gonzalez suffered a groin injury that is expected to sideline him for some time.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule used the words "significant" and "long-term" when discussing Gonzalez's groin injury, per ESPN, and upcoming tests will determine whether he will be able to return and play this season.
Gonzalez suffered the injury while kicking on the sideline in the third quarter. He was carted to the locker room, and did not return. Punter Johnny Hekker took over kicking duties in his stead.
"I didn't see what happened at first, but I saw him after the fact grabbing at his groin a little bit," Hekker said of Gonzalez's injury.
"I knew; I've been around kickers that have had something go there. It's unfortunate for him; he's worked his tail off, he's a great, great kicker. In my eyes, one of the best in the league. Top, top leg talent. He'll bounce back from this and be a pro in his whole recovery, and we'll have his back the whole way. I'm hopeful his future has a lot of great stuff for the Carolina Panthers. . . .
"It just stinks for a guy that's worked so hard to have his body feeling really good, and a freak situation to happen like that. That sucks."
Gonzalez is entering his second season with the Panthers, and he converted 20 of 22 field goals and 22 of 23 extra points for Carolina in 12 games played last season. His consistency was a reason why the Panthers rewarded him with an extension this offseason. The Arizona State product was originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2017. He also spent a little over two years with the Arizona Cardinals.
Whether Gonzalez returns this season or not, the Panthers are going to have to add a kicker. Eddy Pineiro could get the first crack at replacing Gonzalez, as he is visiting Charlotte for a tryout, per ESPN.