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Notebook: Eddy Piñeiro hopes to kick this week

Eddy Piñeiro

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers brought in another kicker this week, but they may not have to use him.

Eddy Piñeiro said Wednesday that his goal remains to finish the season Sunday against the Bucs after he was unable to kick last week because of hamstring tightness that hit him during pregame warmups in Jacksonville.

Piñeiro said the MRI he took upon returning how didn't show extensive damage, and he's hoping he gets another chance this season.

"I'm going to try to play on Sunday," he said. "I want to come back if all the doctors clear me. I've got to check in with them first, but my mindset is I want to play. That's kind of where everything's at right now."

This is the second time in three years the Panthers have lost a kicker in pregame, after Zane Gonzalez was injured in Buffalo in 2021, leading them to use wide receiver Brandon Zylstra to kick off. Sunday, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill got the emergency duty, and they were waiting to use punter Johnny Hekker for field goals if need be.

"It's super frustrating," Piñeiro said. "Because I take pride in staying healthy and my recovery and my cold tubs, hot tubs, and the way I stretch and the way that I do things in the weight room. It is a little frustrating, but it's just one part of it."

The Panthers added Matthew Wright to the practice squad Tuesday. He was with them in camp while Piñeiro was working back from a minor injury, so he's a familiar face to the specialist group. 

"If his numbers called, make kicks," interim coach Chris Tabor said when asked what he expected of Wright this week. That's what we'll need him to do if his number gets called."

Tabor described it as "a day-by-day process right now," and he didn't have a sense of what Piñeiro's availability might be."

DJ Chark Jr. is set to be become a free agent this offseason, as his one-year deal with the Panthers expires. The free agency window is not open until March 13. As far as Chark is concerned, there is no point worrying before then.

"I really haven't thought to much on it," Chark said Wednesday. "I try not to think that far ahead because I wouldn't really know anything until probably like March anyway. So rather, instead of just racking my brain on that, try to enjoy some time with my family this offseason, feel better, work on my craft and see where God takes me."

Chark came to Carolina after a year with the Detroit Lions and four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his one year thus far with the Panthers, Chark has become a reliable late season option for rookie quarterback Bryce Young. With one game to play, Chark has 33 receptions for 479 yards and five touchdowns. His best performance came as part and parcel of Bryce Young's best game as a rookie, versus the Green Bay Packers. That day, Chark had six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

"I feel like for us to get where we need to be, I obviously have to do my part and contribute," Chark said following that Packers game. "So getting opportunities, I felt like I have to make the most of them whatever opportunities that is and just continuing to be positive and be the guy that I said I was going to be.

"Even when situation doesn't seem so bright or whatever it may be, try to continue to be consistent…shout out to Bryce because he's been trusting me to make some plays and rather than make one and don't make one, I know he's coming back to me and that's a great feeling to have."

— Linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. remains in the concussion protocol, and didn't practice Wednesday. Haynes Sr. left Sunday's game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars and remained in Florida overnight for observation at Baptist Medical Hospital. He returned to Charlotte on Monday afternoon.

Haynes Sr.'s return to Charlotte, and subsequently the Panthers facility, was a boost in morale, the least of which for Tabor.

"He is doing better and obviously still in the concussion protocol. But to see him in the building, to be able to visit with him that night, was very relieving," Tabor said. "As I told my wife, I was scared. Because you love the guy and it's always tough to watch any player, regardless whether it's your own or an opponent, when they take you off on the board. So, glad he's back. He's back, his sense of humor is back, so it's good to have him around."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.

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