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Carolina has said farewell to the last original Panther that suited up for the team in the franchise’s very first game. John Kasay, Carolina’s former decorated kicker, trailed only Jerry Richardson in service to the Carolina franchise that began play in the NFL in 1995. Kasay came to Carolina after spending four seasons in Seattle where he began his career on a high note. The new NFL player-safety emphasis on kick-offs as well as the signing of new kicker, Olindo Mare, foreshadowed the end of Kasay’s sixteen year reign in Carolina.
Kasay’s lack of ability to put the ball in the end-zone on kickoffs had caused the Panthers to keep a kick-off specialist (Rhys Lloyd) on the roster the past few years while relegating Kasay to only PATs and field goals. This year, with many holes to fill and many young players, it seems as though the Panthers felt they could not continue to use a roster spot on an extra kicker. Still, many Panther fans feel that Kasay’s release is not the way he should have exited Carolina.
The lack of coverage surrounding Kasay’s departure on part of the Carolina organization is quite simply, sad. In the past few years the Panther franchise and fans have seen players like Dan Morgan, Julius Peppers, Jake Delhomme, Will Witherspoon, and Brad Hoover either be released or leave due to free agency. Only safety Mike Minter left on his own accord when he retired before the 2007 season. It was believed that Kasay would exit in similar fashion as Minter did; with all the Pomp and Circumstance that was deserving of a man that poured sixteen years of professional service to an expansion team that rose to a competitive franchise.
Kasay has not only made his mark on the Carolina franchise, but has made his mark in the NFL as a whole. As of today, Kasay ranks seventh on the NFL all-time field goal list by successfully converting 433 field goals over his twenty year career (good for 81.9% efficiency). Additionally, Kasay ranks eighth on the league’s all time list for total points with 1,823. Kasay had only missed eleven PATs in 535 attempts good for a 97.9% efficiency. The left-footed kicker was as close as a sure thing as a sure thing could be.
I, like many other Panther fans, believe that John Kasay should be admitted to the Carolina Panthers’ “Ring of Honor” and should have his #4 jersey retired. If the 41 year old Kasay cannot find work elsewhere with another NFL team and decides to retire, I think it would be wise for Marty Hurney and Jerry Richardson to re-sign Kasay to a one day contract so he can retire in the way it should have always been: as a Carolina Panther.