CHARLOTTE – Free safety Charles Godfrey – the leader of the Panthers' secondary – will miss the rest of the season with an injured right Achilles suffered against the Bills.
"You hate to see it happen," head coach Ron Rivera said. "A guy like him, who has really found his niche at free safety for us, you'd love to have him. But we don't."
Godfrey moved from strong to free safety for the final three games of the 2012 season and flourished in his new role, carrying that confidence into the 2013 season.
"Since last year when we moved him to free safety, he's played about as well as you would like to have a free safety play," Rivera said. "You've seen his growth. You've seen him do things that a veteran defensive player is supposed to do."
The injury occurred early in the third quarter when Godfrey broke up a pass in the end zone intended for wide receiver Stevie Johnson. He tried to walk back to the huddle before realizing something wasn't right.
"Disappointing and sad to see a player of his caliber and a leader of the defense go through that," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "You appreciate Charles because he lays it all out there. And he did that on that play."
With Godfrey out for the season, the Panthers must patch together a secondary that is riddled with injuries.
Rivera said starting cornerback Josh Thomas will go through concussion protocol and safety Quintin Mikell "will be very much touch and go" after suffering an ankle injury.
Cornerbacks Josh Norman and D.J. Moore were also banged up against the Bills, but both returned to the game.
"Secondary by committee," Rivera said, adding that Mike Mitchell and Moore or Colin Jones would start at safety if a game were today.
"That's the challenge," Rivera said. "We've got young guys that have to step up. The truth of the matter is teammates have got to rally around them."
In Week 3, the Carolina secondary will face the New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning, whose 812 passing yards are the second most in the NFL. Manning has also thrown a league-high seven interceptions. Last year, Manning completed 27-of-35 passes for 288 yards in a 36-7 victory over the Panthers.
"The other guys have to step up – the guys that are clear-cut starters. Playmakers have to make plays," Rivera said. "If we're starting two new DBs, the other nine guys have got to step up. Our defensive line and front seven have to play well to give us an opportunity."