CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have signed rookie safety Robert Lester off their practice squad to help their injured-riddled secondary.
Lester takes the roster spot of safety Charles Godfrey, who has been placed on injured reserve with a right Achilles injury suffered in Sunday's 24-23 loss at the Buffalo Bills.
Several other members of the Panthers' secondary sustained injuries in the game. Safety Quintin Mikell left the game with an ankle injury that head coach Ron Rivera said would be "touch and go" this week, an injury that left Carolina with two safeties down the stretch against the Bills as well as a cornerback with some experience at safety in D.J. Moore.
Moore played through a knee injury, while safety Mike Mitchell entered the game with a hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 1. Mitchell and safety Colin Jones, who made the roster largely on the strength of his special teams ability, manned the safety spots in the waning minutes of the Bills game.
Lester, an undrafted rookie who started 40 games and won three national championships at Alabama, came on strong early in the offseason but hit a bit of a wall in Rivera's estimation at training camp.
Lester was waived in the Panthers' final roster cutdown but was added to the practice squad the next day.
"He's a smart, sharp individual who played in a very good system at Alabama," Rivera said during Lester's tough stretch at training camp. "This isn't too big for him."
The best-case scenario at safety in Week 3 versus the New York Giants would be for Mitchell and Mikell to be healthy enough to play, though both have been working at strong safety since joining the Panthers. Mikell, who signed with the Panthers on Sept. 2, did start 23 games at free safety in additon to nine at strong safety for the St. Louis Rams the last two seasons.
"Mike (Mitchell) has been here longer than Q (Mikell) has, but Q has more experience playing in the NFL and has played free safety before," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "And again, we'll just have to see who's healthy."
In addition to Lester joining the safety group, an undrafted rookie free agent could play into the Panthers' plan at cornerback. With Moore hobbled and Josh Thomas going through the NFL's concussion protocol, Melvin White could be active for the first time to provide depth.
If there is any good news as far as the health of the secondary is concerned it is at corner, where starter Captain Munnerlyn and top reserve Josh Norman were on the field along with Moore at the end of the Bills game, though Norman did miss some time after taking a helmet to the thigh. There's also a chance that James Dockery could play after missing the first two games with a thumb injury.