Kicker Justin Medlock and punter Brad Nortman had talked in recent weeks about the inevitable cuts the Carolina Panthers would have to make.
Medlock, a 28-year-old who is a one-game NFL veteran, shared the best advice he could with the Panthers’ sixth-round draft pick: Just get better.
Tuesday’s practice was the first for the kicking specialists without veterans Olindo Mare and Nick Narris after both were cut on Monday as the Panthers trimmed their roster to 75 players. Now, just days removed from not knowing if they’d be on the other side of the cut, Medlock and Nortman appear to be the starters for the regular season.
“One of the things I help Brad with is to not really worry about this business, because you never know where you’re going to be,” Medlock said. “You have to focus on getting better. If you do, you’ll kick somewhere in the NFL, whether if it’s for the Panthers or somewhere else.”
Medlock said he wasn’t ready for that advice in 2007. That was the year he had a one-game tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs that resulted a 1-for-2 field goal outing and being cut two days later.
He’s bought into the advice he didn’t understand five years ago, and he’s imparting it on the 22-year-old punter from Wisconsin. Medlock was also the first to break the news to Nortman that he had won the job over veteran punter Harris, giving him a call after a friend had texted Medlock congratulations.
Nortman, who had the better boot than Harris, averaged 45.7 yards per punt in the preseason. He put two punts inside the 20-yard line Sunday for the first time all preseason, showing the same accuracy that made Harris close competition.
Likewise, Medlock had the longer leg compared to Mare and went 3-for-3 in the preseason between 40 and 49 yards.
“We’re both confident in our abilities,” Nortman said of himself and Medlock, dismissing the notion that age is a factor. “If we weren’t talented we wouldn’t be here. We’re not too worried about what our age is or anything like that. I think we’re both pretty skilled.”
Medlock, who had been in Canada since the Chiefs cut him, saw the NFL as trending to veteran kicking specialists. At first when a starter was injured, he thought he had a chance. But he realized teams would find a quick fix with a veteran rather than taking a chance on an unproven kicker.
The Panthers have their guys.
“We had to look at the big picture, not just guys that have experience but some young guys that can be with us for a longer period of time and guys that can establish themselves and have nice, long careers in one spot,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We are most certainly looking to the future with those guys.”
On Sunday, Medlock walked through the tunnel at MetLife Stadium thinking it could be his last game. Now, both he and Nortman are able to turn their attention to the Steelers in their final test before the regular season begins.
So what do you hope to get out of playing the Steelers on Thursday?
“I’m happy to play the Steelers,” Medlock said, smiling.