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Mare gives Panthers a leg up


SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Olindo Mare understands he has big shoes to fill, namely the ones worn by kicker John Kasay since before the Panthers had even played their first NFL game.

Mare has a simple plan: Don't dare try on those shoes for size.

"A guy like that's a legend," Mare said. "I've always liked John as long as I've been playing, and you try to model your game and your life really after somebody like that.

"I'm not going to try to replace him. I'm going to try to be me; that's been working for a while. I don't think you come in here and replace a guy like that or you try to be like him. I don't know if anybody can do it. I'm going to do what I do best and kick how I've been kicking the last 15 years, and that will be good enough."

Mare has been better than good in recent seasons. The 38-year-old connected on 88 percent of his field goals while spending the last three years with Seattle, the third-best percentage during that time among players who served as their team's primary kicker each of those three seasons (Neil Rackers is first at 90.7 percent; Ryan Longwell is second at 90 percent).

Just as importantly, Mare ranks near the top of the league in touchbacks on kickoffs. Only three kickers have more than his 64 touchbacks over the past three seasons, and his touchback-to-kickoff percentage helped the Seahawks rank in the top six in that category each of the past three seasons.

Kasay last handled kickoffs in 2007, meaning the Panthers carried an additional kicker on the roster. Rhys Lloyd filled the role well with 62 touchbacks over the past three seasons, and Kasay ranked seventh in the NFL with an 86.2-percent field goal conversion rate over that period.

But in this case, one body is better than two.

"With the kickoff situation, we've always carried three kickers, but you'd always rather carry two kickers," general manager Marty Hurney said, including the punter in the figure. "If you have someone who can kick it out of the end zone and be an efficient field goal kicker, that's the goal."

That's arguably even more important this year, with the NFL moving the kickoff from the 30-yard line up to the 35 in an effort to cut down on the number of injuries that occur on kickoffs.

"I think that's a big help, especially when you've got such a good defense, to make sure that most of the time they're starting on the 20-yard line," said Mare, adding that he hoped to double his touchbacks with the rule change. "It's something I've always done and done well, and I'll continue that here. I'm glad they moved it up."

Mare appears to have a matter-of-fact confidence about him, a professional approach borne of 14 successful NFL seasons. The Syracuse University product spent his first 10 seasons kicking for the Miami Dolphins in his native Florida, then he moved to Mooresville, N.C. – 30 minutes north of Charlotte – as a middle ground between his home and his wife's home when he signed with the New Orleans Saints.

After one season with the Saints, he joined the Seahawks and truly came into his own. He's been in the zone for the last three years, and he has no intention of letting the shadow of Kasay take him out of it.

"In the game there is enough pressure that you can't worry about who you're replacing," Mare said. "If it wasn't me it was going to be somebody else. It's going to happen.

"I'm not going to come here and say that I'm going to be just like John or I'm going to be better than John. I'm just going to do what I do, and that's what they want. That's why they signed me."


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