Carolina Panthers cornerback Charles Godfrey says the first couple of days of training camp were a little difficult.
Besides gaining confidence in his surgically repaired Achilles, Godfrey first had to remind himself where to line up.
“The first couple times it was weird. I broke the huddle and I went back like I was going to safety. I’m like, ‘Oh no, I have to find the receiver. I’m at nickel,’ ” Godfrey said Thursday, laughing. “But now I’m pretty much settled in.”
A starter at safety for his first six NFL seasons, Godfrey will line up at corner for the first time since he was at Iowa when the Panthers open their exhibition season Friday against the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am just to run out on the field and be out on the field for warmups to get ready and play the game,” Godfrey said.
It was a tough offseason for Godfrey, who was coming off surgery on his ruptured right Achilles and learning a new position. He also was asked to take a $4.25 million pay cut in a contract restructuring.
But he’s had no setbacks with the Achilles during the first two weeks of camp and is beginning to get more comfortable at his new spot.
During the first couple of practices at Wofford, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Godfrey had “dirty eyes,” meaning he was looking into the offensive backfield at the quarterback instead of playing his man.
“That’s some of the stuff that you have to change up as far as being a safety, you’re always taught to look inside and look at the linemen, look at the quarterback,” Godfrey said. “At corner, you have to get back to the receiver because that’s your man.”
Godfrey, 28, is competing for the nickel corner spot with rookie Bene’ Benwikere, who’s made several interceptions and pass breakups early in camp. Benwikere, the fifth-round pick from San Jose State, said Godfrey has helped him learn schemes and responsibilities.
“He’s definitely been a guy that you can tell (by) his work ethic that he goes hard every play,” Benwikere said. “And he’s a smart guy. Just things that we learn on the field, on the run, in the meeting rooms, he’s just making sure constantly that I understand what he understands.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it’s been a “very competitive” position battle at nickel.
“We like what Charles Godfrey’s been doing. We also like what Bene’s been doing, as well,” Rivera said. “We’ve got a couple things that we’ve got to look at, and these games will help us in terms of our decision-making process.”
Godfrey was injured in a Week 2 loss to Buffalo last season jumping to break up a pass in the end zone intended for Stevie Johnson. It was the first major injury of Godfrey’s career.
Rivera was asked whether Godfrey’s speed is close to what it was before he was hurt.
“I’d like to believe it’s there. Now it’s just a matter of him getting confident in it,” Rivera said. “That’s very important for an athlete is to be confident in something that’s been repaired.”
Godfrey, who can earn back $1.7 million of the salary he forfeited in per-game bonuses, said he’s beginning to get his legs back under him.
“Some of the plays that I’ve made and some of the breaks that I’ve made took me over the edge,” he said. “Now I’m fully confident.”
Godfrey will return to action against the team the Panthers were playing when he was injured, not that he’s given it much thought.
“It happened. It could have been any game,” he said. “But it happened (against) those guys and I’m just going to take the game as it comes.”