Michael Palardy doesn’t have a nameplate on his locker. He barely has enough Carolina Panthers team-issued gear to make it look like it is occupied.
He also has never punted in a regular-season NFL game, but on Thursday night, he will get his chance.
Palardy got a phone call on Sunday night at 6 p.m. from the Panthers. They asked him if he had been staying in shape, if he’d been kicking.
Then, they signed him.
“I was sitting down to dinner with my family and my kids (when the call came),” he said. “I put them to bed. As soon as I put them to bed, I got in the car and made the drive four hours from Atlanta to here, just like it was another day.”
The Panthers announced the transaction alongside a much more somber one. Starting punter Andy Lee hurt his hamstring in first half of the Panthers’ 20-17 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night, sending in kicker Graham Gano in his place. Carolina had to place him on injured reserve on Monday, an indicator that Lee’s season is over.
Lee ranked fourth in the league in punting average at 49.1 yards per kick, and had 18 punts downed inside the 20. He is under contract through the 2018 season.
“(Andy and I) have talked about a lot of things in the short time that we’ve met each other,” said Palardy. “I hate it for him. I wish the best, and nothing but the best. ... To hear that something like that happened to him with such an extensive career, what he’s done in his career, it’s tough. I’m sure it’s tough on him and I can only imagine what he’s going through.”
Palardy, a left-footed punter, was briefly with Carolina in the spring, one of four punters the Panthers auditioned before ultimately trading a fourth-round pick for Lee. Palardy was signed in April before being released in June, and was also briefly with both the Browns and the Falcons.
But the feeling of being re-signed hasn’t gotten stale with repetition.
“I think the anticipation of it is the same,” he said. “That’s what has made it a little bit easier for me to go through this process, is that I have been through this before and I know anticipating that it could happen any point at any time during the day, whenever during the season. I just know that when it does happen, since I’ve done it before I can handle it.”
Palardy’s last punt in a regular-season game was in college, almost three years ago at Tennessee. His next one will mark a span of 1,083 days between live, non-preseason games, and the jump between college and the NFL.
“I want to help out. I want to do my job,” he said. “And do it to the best of my ability so that everyone around me has confidence in me. I have confidence in myself, and I think that comes from the preparation side of it. Just being ready for that phone call, any day.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for the past three years. ... Finally, I get that opportunity. And I’m just licking my chops at the chance that I get.”