Harrison Butker didn’t stay gone for long.
A day after the Panthers cut the rookie kicker from Georgia Tech, Butker returned on the team’s practice squad after clearing waivers Thursday. Butker, a seventh-round pick and the only kicker ever drafted by the Panthers, didn’t miss a kick during the preseason and hit a 51-yard field goal in his first preseason game.
But the Panthers went with veteran Graham Gano over Butker, who remained on the 53-man roster until Wednesday. It turned out to be fortuitous timing: A day earlier the Eagles signed kicker Jake Elliott off the Bengals’ practice squad after placing Caleb Sturgis on injured reserve.
“Sometimes when you make moves like this at this time, hopefully the timing of it can be very beneficial to us,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said earlier Thursday.
The Panthers could still lose Butker, who can be signed off the practice squad to any team’s active roster. To make room for Butker, the Panthers cut defensive tackle Eric Crume from the practice squad.
Butker was not the only Panthers’ move Thursday.
Interim GM Marty Hurney made a waiver claim for the second day in a row, picking up offensive tackle John Theus from San Francisco and placing undrafted rookie cornerback Cole Luke (ankle) on IR.
Theus was an All-SEC choice as a senior at Georgia, where he started 48 games before being drafted in the fifth round by the 49ers last year. Theus, 6-6 and 303 pounds, played in the 49ers’ final four games last year, including a start at right tackle against the L.A. Rams.
The Panthers claimed cornerback LaDarius Gunter from the Packers on Wednesday.