Dockery savors second chance

CHARLOTTE – It didn't work out like cornerback James Dockery had hoped when the Panthers made their final roster cuts leading up to the regular season, but that didn't stop Dockery from working out.

"Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don't, but you can't let that affect how you work and prepare," Dockery said. "I kept working out, and I ended up where I wanted to be."

Tuesday, with the Panthers hurting in the secondary, they re-signed Dockery, who had maintained a residence in Charlotte since being waived on August 30. He had stayed in football shape and had a tryout with the Jacksonville Jaguars and an invitation to work out for the Detroit Lions just before his old team came calling.

Dockery returned to the familiar practice fields at Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday and didn't appear to have skipped a beat.

"He looked good," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He looks to be in good shape, and his retention has been outstanding.

"He took reps with the first bunch today, in both base and nickel situations, and he also took a lot of reps on special teams. He'll play for us. He'll be up on Sunday."

Cornerbacks Bene Benwikere and Josh Norman were among the 10 Panthers who didn't practice Wednesday. Benwikere essentially ruled himself out for Sunday's game at Cincinnati because of a high ankle sprain he suffered against the Chicago Bears when his foot got caught in the ground on a field goal attempt.

"We'll see how it goes after this week. That's what I'm banking on, hopefully missing just one week," Benwikere said.

Norman suffered a concussion and shoulder stinger against the Bears.

"Josh's was kind of a scary thing, although he passed the first test today," Rivera said. "We've just got to make sure we continue with the protocol and see how he is come Friday.

"Both Bene and Josh have injuries that are concerning, so we had to make a move at that spot."

The decision to bring back Dockery made sense on a lot of levels. In addition to his knowledge of the Panthers – he played 12 games for Carolina over the previous two seasons – he's also adept on special teams, an area in which both Benwikere and Norman are important contributors.

Plus, Dockery has proven to be a solid option in the secondary in the past. He made major contributions in the defensive backfield over the final month of the 2012 season and was a candidate to start in 2013 before a broken thumb derailed his preseason and then a shoulder injury shut him down midway through the regular season.

If Norman can't play Sunday, the Panthers will first turn to Antoine Cason and Melvin White at corner – the tandem that started Carolina's first four games before Norman started in place of White last week. The nickel position manned by Benwikere would first go to Charles Godfrey, a veteran working at nickel after switching from safety in the offseason.

"I'm kind of getting into a zone now as far as the nickel position," Godfrey said. "It's coming together. It's been a process, but it's coming together.

"I had a pretty good practice today at nickel. I was able to focus in and hone in on that one position and not have to play safety as well."

Godfrey, who had returned predominantly to safety before Benwikere's injury, is happy to have an extended opportunity, but he isn't celebrating.

"Anytime anybody on my team goes down, it's difficult," Godfrey said. "We need everybody."

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