The Carolina Panthers found themselves in a strange spot on Monday in the first practice after a bye week.
But punter Michael Palardy found a potential opportunity to brush the dust off a skill not many know he possesses.
The Panthers’ two backup quarterbacks, Derek Anderson and Garrett Gilbert, were sick and contagious and had to be sent home from the team’s facilities, coach Ron Rivera said.
That left starter Cam Newton alone as the only player who could get receivers their repetitions out of the bye – or so the team thought.
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Instead, Rivera called over Palardy as the team was stretching, and told him they’d probably go with him as a backup arm in a period of drills that day, during which Palardy would take nine snaps at quarterback.
Palardy all but skipped delightfully back across the field to tell his fellow specialists, who immediately began hooting with glee. Long snapper J.J. Jansen also wondered aloud what this year’s franchise tag contract looks like for a quarterback, as opposed to a punter.
“I was so pumped,” said Palardy. “I was so, so excited. ... I haven’t taken live snaps since I was 15. I was relishing the moment. I was like, ‘I’m excited. I’m pumped.’
The punter attended St. Thomas Aquinas High in Florida, a noted powerhouse in high school football, where he played quarterback his freshman and sophomore years. He also kicked and punted, so if he threw a touchdown pass, he’d just stay on the field to notch the extra point.
“I was always out there for first, second, third or fourth down,” he said. “If I had to punt, I punted. If I had to kick, I kicked. And then once we scored, if I threw the touchdown or whatever it was, I’d throw the extra point. And then I’d stay out for the ensuing kickoff and kick (the ball) off.”
Palardy was ultimately beaten out at quarterback by Jake Rudock, who is on the Detroit Lions roster after playing for Iowa and Michigan, and Ryan Becker, now the assistant director of football operations at Penn.
On Monday, he was also beaten out by quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey as the go-to backup in camp.
Dorsey was the winningest quarterback in school history at the University of Miami, where he played from 1999-2002 and won a national title in 2001.
His credentials at the position do outweigh Palardy’s, but the punter still said he was “crushed” when Rivera decided to go with Dorsey instead (a reaction that caused the head coach to laugh out loud in his press conference later in the day).
“Man, I was distraught. It was like somebody ripped my heart out and stepped on it,” Palardy said.
Kicker Graham Gano reacted by ripping off his beanie and animatedly throwing it to the ground when a dejected Palardy shared the news.
Dorsey was intercepted once in practice, by safety Jairus Byrd, but Palardy joked that he would have gone 9-for-9 in the drill.
Rivera said he just wanted to preserve the health of the punter, who ranks No. 5 in the NFL in net punting, with an average of 43.3 yards per punt.
“We figured it was safer than having Palardy do it,” Rivera grinned. “We figured Kenny’s expendable, and Palardy’s a little bit more valuable. We can’t have someone running into him.”