Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu has signed with the Carolina Panthers and will join the NFL team’s practice squad.
The 29-year-old resident of Oakville, Ont., was cut in training camp by the Los Angeles Rams this year after spending last season with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Hajrullahu has also played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts over six CFL seasons.
Panthers kicker Joey Slye has struggled this year, going 24-for-31 (77.4 per cent) on field goals, which puts him outside the top 20 in the NFL. Slye missed a potential winner from 54 yards in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Carolina’s last game, dropping the Panthers’ record to 4-8.
The Panthers brought Hajrullahu and fellow kickers Chandler Catanzaro and Louie Zervos in for workouts last week.
“Joey’s our kicker. Lirim really impressed everybody at the workout and did a nice job today at practice,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday. “He can kick and punt. He’ll be available, but Joey’s our kicker this week.”
The five-foot-11, 205-pound Hajrullahu, a former Western Mustangs star, hit 47-of-55 field goals (85.5 per cent) while posting a 43.1-yard punting average last season. He helped Hamilton post a league-best 15-3 record and establish a single-season club record for regular-season victories.
Lirim Hajrullahu was taking kicks at practice. This is different than how the Panthers approached Taylor Bertolet’s time with the team. Never saw him at practice.
The Ticats’ season ended with a 33-12 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup.
In 2017, Hajrullahu’s 32-yard field goal with 53 seconds left gave Toronto a 27-24 victory over Calgary in the CFL title game.
Hamilton released Hajrullahu early to allow him to pursue NFL opportunities. Over his CFL career, Hajrullahu has hit 239-of-287 field goals (83.3 per cent) while sporting a 44.1-yard punting average.
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