CHARLOTTE – Three Panthers starters are in danger of missing Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, but head coach Ron Rivera is crossing his fingers.
Safety Charles Godfrey, wide receiver Brandon LaFell and running back Jonathan Stewart were among five players Thursday that missed practice for the second consecutive day.
Two more starters - linebacker James Anderson and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards - also missed a second consecutive practice, though Rivera wasn't quite as concerned about their status.
"Tomorrow is a big day for everybody on that list," Rivera said. "We're hopeful. You would hope at least half of them can go."
Godfrey, who is fighting a back injury, has started every game this season and 48 of the Panthers' last 50 games. His health is made an even bigger concern by the absence of fellow safety Sherrod Martin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Sunday at Kansas City.
"Charles was just really, really sore on Monday," Rivera said. "It locked up on him, so we decided to not work him yesterday or today."
LaFell injured his foot early in the second half Sunday when he dropped a potential long touchdown pass after getting behind Chiefs cornerback Javier Arenas.
"When the guy went down he grabbed my foot, and my foot bent wrong," LaFell said. "Real bad turf toe, and I sprained it real bad. It's nothing major, though. I'll be OK. The problem is my turf toe. I can't really push off right now.
"Hopefully I'll start feeling better overnight or over the next couple of days so I can play this weekend."
Stewart didn't play last week after suffering an ankle injury the week before against Philadelphia. He hasn't practiced since.
MURPHY'S MOMENT: If LaFell is unavailable, the Panthers will turn to Louis Murphy to fill the No. 2 receiver role opposite Steve Smith.
Murphy has 14 receptions for 220 yards and scored his first receiving touchdown of the season last week on an 8-yard catch against Kansas City.
"He's had a good year," Rivera said. "He's had a couple of untimely drops during the season, but he's also made some very big plays. He's doing the things that you need him to do."
Murphy has been a vertical threat all season, and with LaFell's status in question, Rivera plans to take full advantage of Murphy's speed.
"One thing he does present is the speed threat," Rivera said. "If people want to try to roll toward Steve (Smith) -- with Murph's ability to run and his ability to catch the deep ball -- that could be a scary thing."
SMITH GETS HIS SHOT: Much to his delight, running back Armond Smith was called up from the practice squad Tuesday.
"Coach Rivera saw me coming into the building (on Tuesday), and I kind of wanted to hug him, actually," Smith said with a laugh. "He just stuck his hand out and shook my hand, told me to make the best of my opportunity."
Smith's persistent work ethic has made an impression on Rivera, and Smith will get a chance to contribute on special teams versus Atlanta. Rivera also added that there "may be an opportunity or two offensively."
"He's one of those guys that has earned the opportunity," Rivera said. "He gets out there every day and practices like he's going to play. He's got a high energy motor, gives you 100 percent. He's the kind of guy that you want on your football team. At some point, guys like that deserve a chance to get on the field. He deserves this chance."
ADDING ADDISON: The Panthers also signed defensive end Mario Addison to the active roster this week, signing him off the Washington Redskins practice squad.
Addison, who was on the Troy roster with Martin in 2008, could get a chance early to contribute on special teams. The second-year player logged two special teams tackles for Indianapolis last year and four with Washington this season.
"I've played all positions on special teams," Addison said. "I love special teams. It's a chance to show what I've got as far as speed and how I can use my hands."
MORE IN THE MIX: There are plenty of fresh faces around the locker room these days, but Rivera is more focused on their fresh legs.
The Panthers added safety Anderson Russell to the practice squad to replace Ron Parker after the Seattle Seahawks signed Parker to their active roster. He and cornerback Nick Hixson – signed to the practice squad last week – have caught Rivera's eye.
"The biggest thing is we like is Anderson's size – just under 6-1, 200 pounds and runs a 4.52. He showed some good quickness today with the scout team," Rivera said. "Watching him and Hixson run around on the scout team, fresh-legged guys, hopefully our offensive guys will get a good picture from them."
Former North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney also joined the practice squad. The Jacksonville, N.C, native spent his rookie season last year on the Panthers practice squad and the St. Louis Rams practice squad.
"Having a second opportunity to come back and be a part of this team is big, not only for me but for my community," said Burney, who had been helping his father of some painting jobs when the Panthers called. "It felt good getting back out there after being at home, backpedaling against myself. It's definitely different with Steve (Smith) in front of me."
Senior writer Bryan Strickland and staff writer Max Henson contributed to this report.