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Panthers add rookie kicker Kunalic to challenge Mare

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers signed rookie kicker Adi Kunalic to a three-year contract on Tuesday, and also decided to keep veteran Olindo Mare on the roster.

Kunalic, an undrafted rookie from Nebraska, attended training camp with the Panthers, but was cut prior to the season.

Mare missed a 36-yard field goal with 5:26 left in the game Sunday that would have given Carolina a 26-24 lead against Atlanta.

Instead, the Falcons took advantage of that momentum and scored two plays later on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to beat the Panthers 31-23. Mare also missed a game-tying field goal earlier in the season against Minnesota.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said it's too early to know who'll handle field goals and kickoffs for Sunday's game against Houston.

"I don't know, we brought Adi in to compete with Olindo," Hurney said. "We'll see what happens this week in practice."

The Panthers made a significant investment in Mare this offseason, giving him a four-year contract worth $12 million that included a $4 million signing bonus to replace long-time kicker John Kasay.

Mare has converted 19 of 25 field goals this season. At 76 percent, that ranks near the bottom of the league.

To make room on the roster, the Panthers put linebacker Jason Phillips on injured reserve with a right calf injury. The Panthers have a franchise-record 15 players on injured reserve.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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