CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers will be without star running back Christian McCaffrey for “a few weeks,” a league source confirmed Friday.
McCaffrey had an MRI done a day after he strained his hamstring in the second quarter of the Panthers’ 24-9 win over the Houston Texans Thursday night. NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport was the first to report the news. The sense after the game was that McCaffrey did not tear his hamstring, and the injury wasn’t as severe as it could have been.
The Panthers have not decided whether they will put him on IR.
The loss of McCaffrey is a big blow to the Panthers. Before their Week 3 game, McCaffrey accounted for 41% of the Panthers’ total offense. And even when he isn’t getting the ball, he takes pressure off other players because the defense has to account for him.
“He’s someone who you can align anywhere, and I think the greatest way to see how great a player is by how a defense has to game plan for them,” quarterback Sam Darnold said Thursday night. “When Christian is out there you can see when he starts to line up in different ways that defenses have certain checks for him when he’s out there. That’s a sign of a really good player.”
Without McCaffrey, the Panthers will have to get creative.
Rookie running back Chuba Hubbard and backup Royce Freeman will have to step up. The two combined for 69 yards rushing and 35 yards receiving Thursday.
Hubbard, who the Panthers drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft, especially played well. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
This isn’t the first time the Panthers have had to deal with injuries to McCaffrey. In fact, the Panthers have played more games without McCaffrey over the past two years (13), than they’ve played with him (six).
McCaffrey missed 13 games in 2020 with various injuries, including a high ankle sprain, an AC joint injury and a quad injury he suffered while rehabbing on his own.
In Week 2 against the Saints, he left the game briefly after dealing with cramps. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said he didn’t believe the cramps and McCaffrey’s hamstring injury were connected, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility that playing on a short week from Sunday to Thursday could have been a factor.©2021 The Charlotte Observer. Visit charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.