Panthers starting free safety Charles Godfrey is out for the remainder of the season with a torn right Achilles tendon, adding to the team's troubles following a 0-2 start.
Team spokesman Charlie Dayton made the announcement Monday shortly after coach Ron Rivera's press conference.
Godfrey, a six-year-starter for the Panthers, sustained the injury during the second half of Carolina's 24-23 loss to Buffalo on Sunday while breaking up a pass to Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson in the corner of the end zone.
Godfrey's injury is a huge blow to a secondary that was already considered the weak link in Carolina's defense. Godfrey, who has started 74 career games, is considered the secondary's best player.
But his injury might not be Carolina's only concern in the secondary as they prepare to host the New York Giants on Sunday.
Rivera said the Panthers will re-evaluate the team's other four injured defensive backs — Quintin Mikell (foot), Josh Thomas (concussion), Josh Norman (thigh) and DJ Moore (knee) — on Wednesday when they return to practice. Mikell and Thomas both left the game Sunday and did not return. Norman and Moore were also injured, but returned to the game later on.
Rivera said if Mikell can't play the Panthers would look at Moore and Colin Jones as potential replacements for Godfrey.
If Thomas is unable to start at cornerback, the Panthers could turn to James Dockery and Melvin White, a pair of young players who've been inactive the last two games.
The team is also considering bringing in free agents from outside the organization.
Rivera said losing the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Godfrey is difficult because he's made tremendous strides since being moved from strong safety to free safety last season and had become the leader in the secondary.
"Since then he's played about as well as you would like to have a free safety play," Rivera said. "He's put himself in position to make plays and he's done the type of things you need to do to have success.
"The thing you've seen is his growth. You see him doing things that a veteran defensive player is supposed to do — giving false reads, giving bad reads to an opponent and disguising his coverages by moving in and out of coverages. You hate to see it happen because he's a guy who has really found his niche at free safety for us. You would love to have him, but we don't."
Last year Eli Manning threw for 288 yards and a touchdown as the Giants defeated the Panthers 36-7 in Charlotte.