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Shockey, Kasay face former teams

Posted Oct 7, 2011

CHARLOTTE - When NFC South rivals Carolina and New Orleans squared off in recent seasons, kicker John Kasay was a Panther and tight end Jeremy Shockey was a Saint.

This season, they've switched sidelines.

Kasay, the last of the original Panther before his release in July, will kick for the Saints on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, the place where he kicked for 16 seasons.

And Shockey will suit up for the Panthers following a three-year run with the Saints that included a Super Bowl title.

Kasay, who typically avoids the media spotlight, hasn't discussed his homecoming this week, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera can relate to Kasay's situation. A week ago, Rivera faced the Chicago Bears as a head coach for the first time – the team he spent 14 seasons with as a player and coach.

"It's like last Sunday was for me. It's going to happen," Rivera said. "You can go home again, and you enjoy going home. I enjoyed the heck out of going to Chicago - up until the last seconds ticked off.

"I'm happy for John, but we're obviously going to try to make it a bad trip for him."

The Panthers released Kasay when they had an opportunity to sign unrestricted free agent Olindo Mare, an accurate field goal kicker and effective kickoff man. Mare has made 8-of-10 field goals (one was blocked) this season and has 10 touchbacks on 21 kickoffs. Kasay last handled kickoff duties full-time in 2007.

"A situation came about where we had an opportunity to go with one guy for two positions. As a young team, that was an opportunity," Rivera said. "You could look at John and know he'd kick again. He kicked well last season, and he's kicking well again this season."

Kasay has made 9-of-11 field goals for the Saints. He also handled kickoff duties in last Sunday's victory in Jacksonville, reaching the end zone all six times with three touchbacks.

Kasay signed with the Saints when Garrett Hartley suffered a hip injury in the preseason. Hartley was placed on injured reserve last week.

"So John will be our kicker for the remainder of the season," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "He's brought a steady demeanor with him. He's been very accurate and has really gotten off to a good start."

Shockey is off to a good start with the Panthers, teaming with Greg Olsen to form arguably the most potent tight end duo in the NFL. The Saints chose against pairing Shockey and up-and-coming tight end Jimmy Graham for another year, releasing Shockey in February.

"I have a lot of respect for everyone in that organization, but that was first time I have ever been cut in my life, so I'm not going to sit here and say I don't have a bitter taste in my mouth about being pushed off to the side and being told, ‘See you and good luck,' " Shockey said. "But I had a great experience there. I won a Super Bowl there, won a lot of games and made a lot of plays."

Shockey missed two Panthers-Saints games over the last three seasons with injuries. He's dealing with a head injury and has been playing with a broken finger since Week 1 but has no intention of missing this game.

"I expect to play this game, and I know the Saints expect me to play as well," said Shockey, who has 11 catches for 178 yards so far this season. "This game can't come fast enough for me."

Payton credited Shockey with assisting in the development of Graham, a former University of Miami basketball player turned football player who has 24 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns to date in his second NFL season.

Payton also called Shockey one of his favorite players and came to Shockey's defense on an offensive pass interference call that wiped out a touchdown against the Bears, saying, "I'm still looking for the interference call on tape."

Rivera had asked the league for an official explanation of the call.

"It goes back to the interpretation of the rules, so we'll live with it. And truthfully, that's not the reason why we lost the football game," Rivera said. "To agree or disagree now unfortunately is a moot point for us. We've just got to move forward from it.

"But," Rivera added, "I appreciate what Sean said."