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Carolina Panthers

Eddy Piñeiro excited for new opportunity in Carolina 

Eddy Piñeiro

CHARLOTTE –  Eddy Piñeiro laces up two different shoes for football – a size 9 1/2 white football cleat on his left, and a size 9 black soccer cleat on his right.

It's not superstition for the Panthers' new kicker, but it is about finding a perfect mix of sturdiness from his left foot and follow-through from his right.

"Honestly, I do it because (the football cleat) just gives me more traction," Piñeiro said. "I'm more of a 'feel' type of kicker. I come off of a feeling of the ball."

Piñeiro will dive into the nuances of kicking if asked about them, digging into everything from coaching cues and techniques. He said all kickers are students of the craft like that, but the way his philosophy gels with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor makes him a good fit for an unfortunate situation.

The job became open after Zane Gonzalez sustained a season-ending groin injury during a practice kick on the sideline of the Buffalo preseason game. Piñeiro impressed in a Monday workout, landing the job on Wednesday, and being a known commodity to Tabor couldn't have hurt.

The two were together from 2019-20 with the Bears, when Piñeiro won a summer kicking competition and Tabor was special teams coordinator.

Tabor said he works to keep relationships with as many players as possible, and that effort went a long way with Piñeiro.

"I literally tell him he's like my second dad," Piñeiro said. "Just the way he's coached me and used me on the field to my best potential. It's been amazing. He's always kept up with me throughout my career. (I) can't complain."

Piñeiro went undrafted in 2018 out of Florida, where he made school history in field goal conversion rate (88.4% on 38-of-43). He signed with the Raiders, but spent his first season on injured reserve before landing with Tabor in Chicago.

That 2019 season was Piñeiro's longest in the league, making 23 of his 28 attempts (82.1%), including both of his attempts from 50 yards or more.

Tabor can recall Piñeiro's NFL career-long, a 53-yard game-winning kick as time expired against the Denver Broncos in 2019.

"That said a lot to me about the kid," Tabor said. "(I'm) really proud of him, and he's just kind of done that throughout his career. So if that situation comes up, hopefully he stays true to form."

Before joining the Panthers, Piñeiro spent time with the New York Jets last season. He went 8-of-8 in field goal attempts across five games after joining the roster in December, a short stint that included a 51-yard make.

Piñeiro jumped into the Panthers' specialist room suddenly, given the nature of Gonzalez's injury. Still, he said he has been greeted by the staff and his teammates – specifically punter Johnny Hekker – with open arms.

Piñeiro has experience with quick moves, like when he joined the Jets late in 2021, so he said he knows how to adjust. He still needs to have his car shipped from New York, but he's hopeful that'll be the first step to making the Carolinas feel like home.

And after spending time in Chicago and the Northeast, where weather and wind can vary dramatically, Piñeiro said he's enjoying the "beautiful" weather in Charlotte.

"It's been a quick turnaround," Piñeiro said. "But everybody on staff here is just so nice. So welcoming, great people. Everybody's just been awesome, just showing me around and making me feel at home."

Piñeiro said he told Gonzalez that he'd be here until the Panthers' initial kicker was back and ready to go, grateful for the opportunity to play in the meantime.

The 26-year-old said he'd recently found out the average NFL player had been in the league for 3 ½ years. Heading into his fifth season, Piñeiro said he feels gracious.

"I'm just super blessed," Piñeiro said. "Just didn't think I would be playing for this long. Hopefully, I can play for another 20 years."

Eddy Piñeiro played two seasons in Chicago (2019-20) followed by a season with the New York Jets (2021).

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