Sunday might be a memorable day for Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay. But he probably doesn't know that now.
Kasay – the last of the original Panthers – is closing in on two milestones that he could reach against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium:
One more field goal will tie him with Jan Stenerud for eighth on the NFL's all-time field-goals-made list with 373.
He needs three to tie his own record of 22 consecutive field goals. He's made 19 straight – 14 this season after finishing 2007 with five in a row.
But, again, he's likely not aware of all this.
Kasay, according to Panthers director of communications Charlie Dayton, doesn't want to know how many field goals he's made or how many in a row he's kicked.
“He says, ‘I just kick the ball,'” Dayton said.
Kasay, who turns 39 next week and has been with the Panthers for 14 of his 18 seasons in the NFL, didn't want to talk to reporters this week.
“And I can assure you, he has no idea of these milestones,” said punter Jason Baker, Kasay's holder for the past four seasons.
Other Panthers did talk, though, and spoke of a veteran teammate who has combined consistency, leadership and a tough competitiveness into a potential hall-of-fame career.
Is that a stretch? Maybe not. Stenerud is the only kicker in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame who didn't play another position. And he'll soon be in Kasay's rear-view mirror.
Consistency: ‘Security blanket, teddy bear'
Muhsin Muhammad has been through three coaches with the Panthers.
“I remember early in my career, the coaching staff – either Dom Capers or (George) Seifert – would say, just get the ball over the 50 and we'll get an automatic three points,” said Muhammad.
That's how long Kasay's consistency and accuracy has held the confidence of the Panthers – from their inaugural season of 1995 with Capers the coach, through the Seifert years and now with John Fox.
He holds several franchise records, including games played (180) and points scored (1,217). His 1,561 points overall (he started his career with four seasons in Seattle) are 13th overall. He's likely to climb to 11th on that list by the time the season is over.
“He shows up day after day, game after game, week after week, year after year,” said Muhammad. “When you think about John, you think about the ultimate pro.”
Said quarterback Jake Delhomme: “You find a kid who has a security blanket or teddy bear. That's what John is for us.”
Leadership: There in a crisis
Charles Godfrey learned quickly. Soon after he signed with the Panthers, Godfrey, the Panthers' rookie safety, had a conversation with Baker.
“Bake said, ‘If there's anybody on this team to talk to and to learn from, it's John Kasay.' Just being around him, he's such a positive guy for us. When he talks, everybody's listening. He's wise, he's been in this game a long time.”
Said Baker: “I've seen him in here at 4 o'clock lifting weights, which is not his normal time. He's been with some guy you or I would never know, in a meeting room or an office, helping him deal with a situation. He's doing that, then he goes and catches up on his own work.”
When receiver Steve Smith punched cornerback Ken Lucas in training camp, two players were seen talking to Smith afterward – Muhammad and Kasay.
In a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006, Kasay became the first kicker in NFL history to make four field goals of 46 yards or longer. He's kicked 11 game-winning field goals in his career (which began in 1991 with the Seattle Seahawks), nine with the Panthers. He's made 103 straight extra-point attempts.
But there have been games to forget. He missed three field goals and an extra point in a 25-16 loss against Philadelphia in 2003. In that season's Super Bowl, his kickoff that bounced out of bounds after the Panthers had taken a late lead allowed the New England Patriots excellent field position to start their winning drive.
“I only remember one bad day (against Philadelphia),” said Fox. “That's a pretty good accomplishment at this high level.”
Adaptability: ‘If he can't do it, I will'
When Kasay struggled with his accuracy and length on kickoffs last season, he was replaced by Rhys Lloyd.
“Young or old, that would help anybody,” said Lloyd, who leads the NFL in touchbacks. “A lot of people don't realize the strain it puts on your leg to kick off and kick field goals. It affects you during a game, especially if you're putting points on the board. I think (not kicking off) has helped him and I think he knows that.”
Lloyd isn't the first player to challenge Kasay. Kickers like Joe Nedney and Shayne Graham – who are still in the league with other teams – have replaced him while he was injured. But Kasay always won his job back.
“Underneath that passive interior is an extremely tough competitor,” said Baker. “The competitions, he's dealt with them over the years. He'll roll up his sleeve and say, ‘I'm going to kick it through the uprights. Let's see what they do now.'”
Whatever happens, happens.
“John will say, ‘If (the other guy) can do it, that's great for everybody in this locker room,'” said Baker. “But if he can't do it, I will.'”
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