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Carolina Panthers

Gano, Nortman feeding off each other's success


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers specialists are a tight-knit group.

Kicker Graham Gano, punter Brad Nortman and long snapper JJ Jansen are rarely apart from one another, whether it be on the practice field or in their corner of the locker room.

So far in 2013, evidence suggests success in that corner of the locker room may be contagious.

"When Graham has success it tends to bring up my level of play," Nortman said. "When he's feeling confident, I'm feeling confident and then vice versa. We really do work off each other."

Gano said, "I feed off these guys and how well they do. When Brad kicks the ball a mile, it makes me want to match that."

After going 8-for-8 during the preseason, Gano is one of ten kickers yet to miss a field goal during the regular season, having connected on all four of his attempts with a long of 53 yards.

Gano – who became Carolina's kicker in Week 12 last year – was 9-of-11 in 2012, missing 48 and 54-yard attempts.

And when it comes to kickoffs, Gano recorded touchbacks on 14 consecutive kicks to start the 2013 season before the Giants brought one out of the end zone in Week 3.

"I feel good about where I'm at, and that really goes back to the offseason," Gano said. "That's really where it started – from the end of last season to the beginning of this season. We've been working really hard together. We put in a lot of work in the weight room, and we kicked a lot. That's paying off now."

Nortman leads the NFL with a 49.4-yard gross punting average. As a rookie in 2012, he finished 29th overall with a 43.0 average.

"Everyone explains how hard your rookie year is and how hard it is to experience that learning curve, and once that second year and beyond occurs it's just monumental growth," Nortman said. "I've experienced that firsthand. I'm punting the ball really well.

"I really feel like I haven't had an off punting day in probably about five or six weeks. In the middle of training camp some things started to click, and I haven't had a bad day since. That just begets confidence."

And that confidence extends to the head coach, who has been impressed with the way his specialists have started the 2013 season.

His message to them is simple: let it fly.

"Both our punter and kicker are very relaxed right now," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Brad has shown he has the ability to flip the field. Graham is showing range, and he's very accurate right now.

"We don't want to over-coach those guys. Let them do what they do best – and that's kick the ball away."

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