SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Olindo Mare is going on 17 years in professional football and he's still learning, still tinkering, still looking for ways to improve.
And the memories of missed opportunities from a season ago are driving the kicker as he competes in his 17th training camp.
Asked to evaluate his 2011 season, two kicks immediately came to mind.
The missed 31-yard attempt with 29 seconds left against Minnesota in Week 8 – a kick that would have tied the game.
"One that I was expected to make," Mare said.
Then, the missed 36-yard attempt with just over five minutes left against Atlanta in Week 14 – a kick that would have given the Panthers a two-point lead. Instead, the Falcons took over and scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass two plays later.
"That made it look worse," Mare said. "We should have been kicking off... I should have made those kicks."
And Mare admits, two blocked attempts (one in Week 4 and one in Week 12) were difficult to shake off.
"We had some injuries (on the kick block team) and when that happens you're throwing guys in and it's hard, it's not an easy game," Mare said. "When you get two or three blocked you have to speed up, you have to do different things and I did that and it didn't work. It cost us a game on one of them, trying to fix it by myself.
"Hopefully, you learn from those mistakes and trust what you do."
This season, Mare is competing with Justin Medlock in training camp to earn the coaches' trust and be the one and only kicker on the roster.
But the competition is nothing new for Mare or any other kicker in the NFL for that matter.
"I'm always concerned with myself and not what's going on around me or who I'm competing with," Mare said. "Because really, you're competing with everybody. There's a long list of guys that want to kick.
"The competition," he added, "is always open."
When there's only 32 kickers needed in the league, that will always be the case.
And after all those years of NFL service, when it comes to kicking, there's not much Mare hasn't seen or done. But head coach Ron Rivera is throwing the special teams units a curveball this preseason – one even Mare didn't see coming.
The kickers won't know who's coming on to attempt field goals until right before the snap during preseason games.
"That's the first I've heard," Mare said, when asked about the preseason kicking procedure. "If that's the plan, then that's the plan… I know there's always chaos, just like at the end of a game there's always something happening and (the coaches) are trying to create that (chaos)."
But Mare is ready for the challenge, ready for yet another year, yet another competition.
"In the last 10 years I've never been surprised by anything," Mare said. "We'll be ready to kick."