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Godfrey steps forward at free safety


CHARLOTTE – During the Panthers' offseason training activities, head coach Ron Rivera made a point to tell safety Charles Godfrey he saw "a lot of maturity in his game."

Godfrey continued to impress during the team's recently concluded three-day minicamp, and Rivera expanded on the safety's growth.

"Charles Godfrey took a big step," Rivera said. "We really saw his improvement as a football player during (OTAs and minicamp). I was really pleased with some of the things that I saw. I saw him doing things that a veteran safety needs to do, and he did them very well."

After starting the first 12 games at strong safety last season, Godfrey moved to free safety for the final three contests, a move that Rivera believes has been hugely beneficial for Godfrey and the entire defense.

"The big thing was moving him from strong safety to free safety at the end of the season," Rivera said. "That really paid dividends for him."

Godfrey – the team's starting strong safety from 2010-12 – wholeheartedly agrees.

"I like what I've seen and how I've felt," Godfrey said. "As far as me moving to free safety, I'm feeling really good back there."

Godfrey, who finished the 2012 season with 69 tackles and two interceptions, welcomed the switch, and he's particularly enthused about the new responsibilities that come with it.

"I want to make plays. I want to be that guy, when the game is on the line and the other team is trying to go deep to win the game, I want to be in position to make that play," Godfrey said. "At free safety, that puts me in that position. I want to get the ball back to my offense."

That playmaking mindset was put on display by the entire defensive backfield throughout minicamp.

Godfrey, who reiterated his need to lead the secondary, is the only defensive back locked into a starting position as both cornerback spots and the strong safety position are up for grabs with training camp looming.

The resulting competitive environment has seemingly brought out the playmaking ability in those vying for opportunities to join Godfrey as a starter in the secondary.

"Ever since I've been here I don't think I've ever been a part of a secondary that broke on the ball and caused interceptions the way we did during (OTAs and minicamp)," Godfrey said. "That's a good sign.

"Everybody is clicking, everybody is moving with a sense of urgency, and I think that's what we need."

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