SPARTANBURG -- No matter how good he is at kicking off, Rhys Lloyd doesn't want to be known as a "specialist."
That's what the Carolina Panthers are considering keeping him to do, but he thinks that down the line, he can be a plain "kicker." There's no chance the Panthers are interested in replacing John Kasay on field goals, but they're giving more than passing thought to keeping Lloyd because of what he can give them in field position.
"I think I add an extra dynamic to the team with my leg strength; but I don't look at myself as a kickoff specialist," Lloyd said. "I feel like I'm a kicker as much as a John is. It's just that my situation is slightly different because I'm making my way into the league where as John has been in the league.
"I'm biding time and it's a great feeling to be standing next to John on the practice field and the game. That is a huge thing. Young guys, you learn from older guys."
Lloyd's here because Kasay struggled kicking off last year, though he remained consistent on field goals. And just as he did in his one-game audition last December, Lloyd paid dividends in the preseason opener, belting four of his five into the end zone. The stray landed on the 1-yard line. There were some coverage breakdowns that allowed a pair of long returns (42 and 39 yards), but the difference was clear.
"That's a weapon when you can put it out of the end zone, so you give the other team the ball at the minus 20," Panthers coach John Fox said. "We'll evaluate that as we go, but he's looked very strong in camp."
Lloyd has only attempted one NFL field goal, a 39-yarder that was blocked when he was playing for Baltimore in the 2005 preseason. He hit 16-of-23 in NFL Europe in 2007, including a 56-yarder. He said he's hit them from as far away as 70 yards in practice, and hopes that some day he gets another chance to be a full-timer.
"Absolutely. I'm tagged that way because of my leg strength and the situation hasn't come up to where I'm kicking field goals in the league," Lloyd said. "But I didn't come into the league as a kickoff specialist. I came into the league as a kicker. I feel like I can kick field goals with the best in the league, so it's a matter of time.
"That's not saying I'm going to take over John's job in the next week or two, because that is not reality. The reality is I'm here to do a job handling the kickoffs and anything else they need me to do."
• SMITH OUT: Panthers receiver Steve Smith wasn't at practice Monday, after suffering a concussion during the preseason opener.
Smith was hit helmet-to-helmet by Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea near the end of the first quarter, on a 19-yard gain across the middle.
Fox would say no more than that Smith was "day-to-day," but it's hard to imagine him playing Thursday at Philadelphia, considering the short week of preparation.
• THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: Fox said there were several decisions he'd have made differently if Saturday were a regular-season game, from the start of the game to the end of regulation.
He was asked if he considered leaving more time on the clock than one second, which would have given them another chance when long snapper Jason Kyle botched the snap for a potential game-winning field goal. Since it was third down, holder Jason Baker could have ostensibly fallen on the ball and called timeout for another chance. But Fox didn't want to risk calling his timeout too soon and giving the Colts a chance to return a kickoff, since those late-game settings are full of guys who won't hang around.
It's something we discussed," Fox said. "I think both sides probably wanted that to be good. But, unfortunately, it wasn't. The preseason is for us, too. There are some things to look at and evaluate. We'll look at that as we move forward."
He also said his decision on whether to take the ball first or defer to the second half upon winning a coin toss would depend on game situations. The league changed that rule this year, bringing it in line with the college rule that allows the choice.
"I think it would be probably fair to say in the preseason that we would probably take the ball, considering some of the options you do with who is playing and how long," he said. "In the regular season, every one of these (games) takes on its own personality. It depends on who you are, who they are, the conditions of the game -- meaning wind, weather -- so it will vary week-to-week."
• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers actually got a few players back on the practice field Monday, with linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Damione Lewis and tight end Chris Conklin returning.
They were still without nine, including Smith. Also out were: Wide receivers D.J Hackett (toe) and Ryne Robinson (knee), tight ends Gary Barnidge (gluteal strain) and Dante Rosario (hamstring), defensive tackle Ian Scott (knee), safety Chris Harris (groin) and cornerbacks Ken Lucas (nose) and Chris Gamble (hamstring).
Lucas was back running on the sidelines after getting his broken nose set last week, though Fox wouldn't say how close he is to returning.
"I think he feels a lot better today than he did yesterday," Fox said. "We're just taking that one day at a time. He's feeling better everyday."