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Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu signs with NFL’s Carolina Panthers

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Lirim Hajrullahu is seen during a practice prior to the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary on November 23, 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has put Lirim Hajrullahu's NFL aspirations on hold. The former Hamilton Tiger-Cat participated in a free-agent camp March 8 and garnered attention from at least four NFL teams. But with NFL facilities closed and travel suspended because of the novel coronavirus, the resident of Oakville, Ont., is trying to stay patient for his opportunity to audition in private workouts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu has signed with the Carolina Panthers and will join the NFL team’s practice squad.

The 30-year-old 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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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