CHARLOTTE – If not for the 30 pounds he's put on over his 18 months as an NFL player, Mike Goodson doesn't believe he'd be equipped to be an every-down running back.
It's a good thing he did pack on the pounds, because Goodson may well be carrying the weight of the Panthers' running game on his shoulders come Sunday.
With DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton all missing practice for the second consecutive day Thursday, it's looking more and more like Goodson will be the lone running back active for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay that was on the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season.
"These are my boys, so to see them go down was bad," said Goodson, who now weighs in at 215 pounds. "But at the same time, I've got a chip on my shoulder. I've got these guys' backs, and I'm going to come in and make it happen."
It would be the first NFL start for the second-year back out of Texas A&M, but the happy-go-lucky Goodson has seen plenty of time on the field. The speedster has been the team's primary kickoff returner this season and much of his rookie season, and he was the primary ballcarrier last Sunday after the injury bug bit.
"It's just playing football," Goodson said. "I've been playing football my whole life, so I just want to come out and make some plays."
To shore up the backfield while the injured players heal, the Panthers have added two faces that are familiar to Goodson: former practice squad player Josh Vaughan and former North Carolina State player Andre Brown.
"It's good to see Josh back. We built a relationship in the offseason and in training camp," Goodson said. "And I know Andre from the combine. We've got two good guys in here."
Vaughan, a University of Richmond product, spent the first two games of the season on the Panthers' practice squad. After Carolina let him go, he spent three weeks on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad and had just been signed to the Buffalo Bills' practice squad when the Panthers came calling.
"I was sitting through meetings (with the Bills), and my agent called me and said, 'We got a call from Carolina. They want to put you on their active roster.' I was excited to hear that," Vaughan said. "It's a blessing to be in this situation. I give glory to God for everything I'm going through right now. It's unfortunate that those guys got hurt, but I'm just going to do my best while those guys are out."
Brown spent time with the Colts this season as well and was active for their game last Sunday before being waived Monday. Carolina is Brown's fourth team already this season.
"I'm just realizing how much of a business this is. I just want to play ball," said Brown, picked by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 2009 draft – 18 picks behind Goodson. "All I can do is hope for my opportunity, and once my opportunity knocks, just take advantage of it.
"I'm still getting adjusted to being in the QC, the Queen City, and there's the whole process of me learning the offense and stuff like that. Each day, I'm getting more and more comfortable."