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Notebook: Eddy Piñeiro feels "fine" in new setting

Eddy Piñeiro

CHARLOTTE — Panthers kicker Eddy Piñeiro's name popped up on the injury report Wednesday, but he said after practice that he felt "fine" after a full day of work.

Now, it's just a matter of getting through his first full week with his new teammates and learning how the operation works here heading into Sunday's opener agaisnt the Browns.

"Good, I feel good," Piñeiro said. "No, it feels fine. Just a little tightness. Nothing serious.

"Practiced today, kicked all my kicks, kicked really good, just getting used to the snapper and the holder. It's been great out there."

Nothing about the situation he's walking into is normal, coming in on the fly after a season-ending groin injury to Zane Gonzalez, going through a group workout here last Monday, and then coming back last Wednesday to sign and get through one practice before a long weekend. But he said the transition has been made easier for him by being able to work with a pair of veterans in long snapper JJ Jansen and punter/holder Johnny Hekker (combined 24 years of NFL experience), so these practices have been productive. He was once in camp with the Raiders with a rookie snapper and holder, and said the difference is obvious.

"I think I've settled in pretty good; I mean, they're the best to do it," Piñeiro said. "Great snapper, great holder, it makes my life easier. It'll take a couple of practices to get into a rhythm and get the chemistry going.

"Now, Johnny's like where do you want me to hold the ball? He knows the winds; if it's blowing left or right, he leans it a certain way for me. Just makes my life so much easier."

Jansen said new holders take longer for him to adapt to than new kickers. Likewise, Hekker said it's a tougher adjustment for him working with a new snapper than a new kicker. Jansen and Hekker have had months to work together, so that part works out.

"It's just the orientation of the ball, do they like more lean to the ball, or straight up and down, the variance on how the swing matches the ball," Hekker said of changing kickers. "It's trial and error, just with Eddy trying to get out there and get as many reps as we can, and build that confidence, stay positive in his ear.

"Misses are going to happen; even the best kickers in the game miss kicks. Their ability to move on and treat each kick as an independent trial is where the separation occurs."

Hekker said there are subtle differences between Gonzalez and Piñeiro (as it pertains to his job), mostly in terms of the distance from which he sets up and the length of strides, but they're not major ones.

"Me changing kickers is not usually a big deal, it would be a bigger deal for Johnny in terms of how the kicker wants the ball," Jansen said. "That caddy-golfer relationship that no one really hears because it's happening right there while they're getting set up, the wind or the target or a pre-swing thought, not as much with me.

"You do it enough, it becomes automatic, and Johnny is able to make those alterations on the fly."

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said there was a possibility the Panthers could look at options at kicker just in case, but he didn't indicate a high level of concern.

The Panthers have had to use emergency plans in the past (last year in Buffalo when Gonzalez was injured in pregame warmups), but Rhule said if anything happened during a game, Hekker could kick extra points, and backup quarterback PJ Walker would hold. They got some reps against Buffalo in the preseason, so at least there's some exposure.

– Quarterback Baker Mayfield spoke to the media after practice Wednesday, reiterating that he does not view the upcoming matchup against his former team as a revenge game, nor does he think either the Panthers or Browns will have an added "edge" on Sunday.

What he does have, Mayfield said, is familiarity. And that's valuable.

"Any time you're playing guys you know, it makes it more interesting, more fun," Mayfield said. "You get to smack talk a little bit with your buddies that you've been with a little bit. You know how to poke and prod, and get the best out of them. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

– Right guard Austin Corbett returned to practice after missing Monday due to the birth of his daughter, Landry.

He joked that he didn't get a lot of sleep on Monday, "but that's what the next couple of days are for."

– Quarterback Matt Corral also returned to the practice field, rolling around on a scooter with his left foot in a cast post-surgery.

The rookie will be out for the season due to a Lisfranc injury sustained in the second preseason game against New England, but he watched practice along the sideline.

View photos from Wednesday's practice at the Atrium Health practice fields.

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