With just a half-hour before the Buffalo Bills game against the Carolina Panthers kicked off on Sunday, December 19, the opposing team’s kicker, Zane Gonzalez, suffered what looked like an incredibly serious injury, and required assistance to exit the field.
Two of his Panthers teammates helped Gonzalez toward the tunnel at Highmark Stadium, and soon after, was officially ruled out due to a quad injury.
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Based on the video posted on Twitter, it appears the 26-year-old kicker slipped on the turf while attempting a kick in warmups and hurt his groin/hamstring. Gonzalez, who was initially selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft, joined the Panthers in 2021. He previously spent time with both the Arizona Cardinals and the Detriot Lions.
Prior to the start of the game, Bills beat reporter Sal Carpaccio discussed the oddly inclement weather in Orchard Park on Sunday. “I was just down on the field a little while ago,” Carpaccio tweeted.” The turf is definitely slick. Footing could be an issue. Something to watch out for today.
“It’s cold, but hardly any wind and no precipitation. We’ll take it after a lot of wind/precip in games this season.”
Gonzalez has been clutch for the Panthers this season. In Week 8, he converted all four of his field-goal attempts, which brought Carolina a 19-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons, and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. The Arizona State alum earned that honor again in Week 10 after converting all four of his field goals during the Panthers’ 34-10 win over the Cardinals.
As for the slick field conditions, it’s something every player should be aware of during Sunday’s game, especially Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who’s playing through a sprained foot in Week 15.
The Panthers Don’t Have a Reliable Backup, Multiple Players Practiced Kicks Before the Game Started
It’s a tough blow for the Panthers as they don’t appear to have a readily available backup. During warm-ups, Carolina was scrambling to figure out how to replace Gonzalez before facing the Bills.
“P Lachlan Edwards is practicing kickoffs right now,” One Bills Live Host Chris Brown tweeted. “Edwards does not have a FG attempt in his career if Gonzalez can’t kick today.”
Unfortunately, Edwards has no placekicking experience, per CBS Sports, which explains why so many players were on the field practicing after Gonzalez exited the field.
The Bills Are 14-Point Favorites to Beat the Panthers
The Bills entered Week 15 as 14-point favorites over the Panthers and losing Gonzalez only stretches those odds further. While no team ever wants an advantage due to a last-minute injury to a kicker, that is the reality of the Bills’ situation on Sunday.
Buffalo desperately needs a win over the Panthers after losing back-to-back games against the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bills have proved time and time again this season that they are vulnerable to losing to inferior teams, so Buffalo needs to remain focused in order to secure a victory over Carolina.