CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Charles Godfrey had no time to ease into the NFL.
Six days after the Carolina Panthers selected him in the third round of the draft, Godfrey was working with the first team at free safety in a minicamp practice.
It was the beginning of a crash course on becoming a rookie starter for a team without depth at safety. He spent much of training camp attached to secondary coach Mike Gillhamer, getting constant instruction between plays. He quizzed veterans, studied extra film and managed to avoid any major mistakes in preseason games.
The start of the regular season has been a much rockier road for the former Iowa star.
``When the regular season picks up, it's another gear,'' Godfrey said Thursday. ``Obviously I had to pick up my game. The first couple of games, it kind of was a shock, because I didn't know what to expect. Now I know what to expect and I know what's going on.''
esota, and has recorded 12 tackles in the past two games.
But Godfrey has also made rookie gaffes. He was in the wrong coverage on Philip Rivers' 44-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers in the season opener at San Diego. Godfrey gave up Gus Frerotte's 48-yard pass to Bernard Berrian in Sunday's loss to Minnesota.
``I think the San Diego play has been well documented,'' coach John Fox said. ``The play last week, the guy had quite a bit of time to throw and the guy made a great throw and the guy made a great catch. I don't know he was so much out of position. I think like all plays we can do something a little bit better. But I think he's played pretty well.''
Not well enough for the 5-foot-11 perfectionist, who switched from receiver to defensive back in high school so he could ``knock somebody over,'' then played cornerback and both safety positions in college.
``My whole game, everything I've got to improve on,'' Godfrey said. ``I'm not where I need to be anywhere in my game. That's one thing about me, I'm very hard on myself. I have to keep on improving because I want to be good, I want to be great.''
And Godfrey believes he can be great. Full of that mandatory confidence to be a defensive back, Godfrey feels he gives the Panthers plenty of defensive options missing when they used a parade of journeymen at safety the past several years.
ure on the quarterback, going out and covering receivers,'' Godfrey said. ``That's one of the upsides I have, I can cover and then I can also blitz and use my speed. And I'm a great tackler, also.''
Quickly becoming a starter as a rookie hasn't stopped him from catching plenty of grief from the veterans. Punter Jason Baker on Thursday asked when he was going to cut his long hair. Linebacker Jason Beason initially responded to a question about Godfrey by yelling, ``Charles Godfrey is awful!''
But Beason, who knows a little about facing pressure as a rookie when he took over for Dan Morgan last season at middle linebacker, believes Godfrey has what it takes to be a successful safety.
``He doesn't seem to get rattled at all,'' Beason said.
A good philosophy when you're a rookie on the final line of defense.
``It's not about getting beat, it's about coming back on the next play and capitalizing,'' Godfrey said. ``Everybody gets beat, even the best. Deion (Sanders) got beat and he's one of the best cover corners to ever play the game. It's about how you bounce back. You have to know that as a DB. You can't get down on yourself.''
o play for the first time since the opener. ... DE Julius Peppers (illness) and RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) were limited in practice. ... DE Tyler Brayton, LB Thomas Davis, LB Na'il Diggs, T Jordan Gross, S Chris Harris and DE Charles Johnson all practiced after being out or limited on Wednesday.

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