CHARLOTTE – Not even a full minute into Friday's preseason game against New England, Mike Scifres, punting for the first time as a Panther, was on the ground and in pain.
Patriots defensive back Brandon King was penalized for running into the punter. Scifres' next attempt following the penalty traveled just 21 yards.
"He took a pretty good shot on his leg," head coach Ron Rivera said, "and when he went to punt again, it bothered him big-time. It was his kicking leg, too."
Now Carolina's punting game is further in question.
Following the injury, the 14-year veteran was replaced by Kasey Redfern, a second-year punter out of Wofford College who joined the team on the last day of training camp.
His seven punts averaged 49.9 yards with a 35.4-yard net average.
His leg strength was made fully known with two 61-yard punts. But they had two very different outcomes.
Redfern's first punt of the game traveled 61 yards, and return man Cyrus Jones was tackled after a 5-yard return.
In the third quarter when he booted another 61-yarder, the ball sailed down the middle of the field, leaving his coverage team with too much space to cover. The result was a 60-yard return by Jones, and it was Redfern who was forced to make the tackle.
"Well, I didn't want to out-punt the coverage," said Redfern, "but we were actually looking at plays like that last night. So it was funny how it all worked out, because I was prepping for stuff like that in my mind, just in case something broke. I was glad I got the tackle. It was a bad turnout, but I'm glad we stopped it."
Added Rivera: "He handled that pretty well in terms of staying alive, making that guy cut back, and we were able to get him down. He has to learn from this. When you boom it, you can't hit it down the middle. It has to be to the sideline, or else you give the guy the whole field to return the ball."
Almost beating Rivera to the classroom, Redfern already knew what he did wrong.
"Ideally I wanted to push it a little farther outside the numbers and all, but it just didn't go exactly how I wanted it to," he said.
Although quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the Patriots would take advantage of the short field to score a touchdown, Redfern's tackle forced the offense to take the field. Had the punter not made the stop, Jones may have found his way into the end zone.
And he is fortunate he was able to complete the play. Although it is something he mentally planned for, tackling is not something he physically practices very often. The last time he completed a tackle was when he was a senior in college.
"So it's been a little while," Redfern joked.
It is unknown the severity of Scifres' knee injury, and the team is awaiting a more complete diagnosis after the punter visits with doctors Saturday.
But Rivera thought Redfern took advantage of his extended opportunity.
"I thought Kasey did a nice job," Rivera said, "a really nice job."