Bills come due for Panthers' Godfrey, Bell

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- There has to be some irony that the two Carolina Panthers with arguably the most to prove in Friday's preseason opener have to do it against the Buffalo Bills.

I'm talking about Charles Godfrey and Byron Bell.

Godfrey's 2013 season ended as the team's starting free safety with a torn Achilles in the third quarter of a 24-23 Week 2 loss at Buffalo. He ultimately had his contract restructured, dropping his base salary from $5 million to $750,000, and was moved to cornerback during the offseason.

He's spent most of training camp learning a position he hasn't played since his college days at Iowa seven years ago. It appears, at best, he will be the starting nickelback.

Bell was playing right tackle in the same game. Quarterback Cam Newton was sacked six times. Mario Williams got 4 1/2 of those, most of them against Bell.

Bell was criticized unmercifully by the media and fans for his performance. It's something he's had to work through as he attempts to replace the retired Jordan Gross as the starting left tackle.

Coach Ron Rivera says much of Bell's criticism was unjust. He offered a reminder that Kansas City's Derrick Thomas had his league single-game record seven sacks in 1990 against a Seattle Seahawks tackle that spent 13 years in the league.

"Show me somebody who hasn't been beat," Rivera said. "It's all a part of the game. Good things happen, bad things happen. We move on from there."

Rivera also said what Bell has accomplished since making the roster as an undrafted rookie out of New Mexico in 2011 has been underappreciated.

"He played as a rookie and played against some very, very good players," Rivera said. "And he's done well against some very, very good players and he's struggled against some very, very good players. That's all part of his development. How he learns and how he grows from it will dictate how good he will be."

Godfrey admittedly has grown from his experience. He's starting to get back some of the instincts it takes to be a cornerback.

Both Godfrey and Bell are playing with chips on their shoulders, although it's more noticeable on Bell.

"I hope so," Rivera said. "I think he's got something to prove and I think he knows he's got something to prove. He's been talking a lot to different people, just trying to help himself and get himself right and in the right frame of mind and go out there and do what he can do."

Ironically, it begins Friday night against Buffalo.