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 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason is everything a veteran likes in a rookie: quiet, humble and willing to learn.
Yet the first-round pick's play on the field could be too good for one veteran to keep his job.
Filling in for Dan Morgan the past two weeks at middle linebacker, Beason has taken over the team lead in tackles and his swarming style has him around the ball on nearly every play. Beason's move has coincided with a marked improvement on defense and a two-game winning streak.
Asked this week if the oft-injured Morgan will return to his starting role when he recovers from a partially torn Achilles tendon, coach John Fox was noncommittal. But in keeping with his modesty, Beason was ready to move back to outside linebacker.
``Right now, it's fun, for the time being,'' Beason said. ``I know Dan's going to come back, and I'll just move back outside.''
Maybe not.
Beason has gone from playing catch-up after missing the first eight days of training camp in a contract holdout, to working with the second team, to starting at outside linebacker to relaying the defensive signals as the middle linebacker.
Fox acknowledged it came a week too late. When Morgan was injured in the Atlanta game on Sept. 23, James Anderson was moved to middle linebacker. The coaching staff was concerned Beason didn't have all the defensive signals down and didn't want to overwhelm the 25th pick in the draft.
But when Anderson struggled, the Panthers moved Beason over - with great results. He had a team-best 10 tackles in the win at New Orleans and eight at Arizona last Sunday. The Panthers have given up just two touchdowns in the last two games.
``I think he's done an excellent job,'' Fox said. ``We were probably a week too late doing it. But he's stepped in and I think he's gotten better each week.''
So much better that it leaves Fox with a tough decision when Morgan returns. It also leaves Beason in a tough spot. He's known the fellow former Miami Hurricane since college, when Morgan would return to campus for offseason workouts.
``If it was up to me, I would hope he could play 10 more years so we could play together,'' Beason said. ``That's one thing I was looking forward to, is being out there on the field with him, learning a lot, watching him. I've been taking notes and want to have that same mystique he has at that position.''
Beason, who has 44 tackles, said he doesn't mind playing middle or outside linebacker. But his talents may best be served in the middle, and the Panthers took him in part because of Morgan's uncertain future due to multiple concussions.
``People get nicked all the time, and I would hope if I got nicked for a couple weeks I wouldn't lose my job,'' Beason said. ``Obviously if a guy's playing well, people might consider it a controversy. But Dan's proven. He knows it far better than I do. It's not like I'm going to bring more to the table than a healthy Dan Morgan will. I think with both of us out there, we're a better defense.''
Notes: The Panthers were initially supposed to practice three days during their bye week. Fox then canceled Tuesday's practice, and shortened Thursday's workout. Players were filtering out of the stadium by noon. They're off until Monday. ... RB Nick Goings is hopeful he'll be able to play against Indianapolis on Oct. 28. Goings has missed the past two games after sustaining at least the third concussion of his career.

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