Something clearly was wrong with Christian McCaffrey’s right ankle in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ Week 2 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. The game situation made that obvious.
Carolina was down seven points early in the fourth with the ball in hand, and their best offensive player was on the sideline getting his ankle re-taped. The crucial drive lasted only three plays and ended with a Teddy Bridgewater interception.
After a Bucs field goal extended their lead, the Panthers got the ball back with a little more than six minutes to play. Again, Carolina’s best player watched from the sideline. This wasn’t just another bump or bruise.
A Panthers field goal, another Bucs touchdown and a Carolina loss later, reports indicated that McCaffrey would be fine despite that his ankle required more attention Monday. That’s when the team determined the 24-year-old had suffered a high ankle sprain that would sideline him for a few weeks.
Below is more about McCaffrey’s injury and his recovery timeline.
How long will Christian McCaffrey be out?
Panthers coach Matt Rhule told reporters the Monday after the Week 2 game that McCaffrey would miss “multiple weeks” with his high ankle sprain. He explained that the injury occurred a couple of plays before McCaffrey scored on a 7-yard run early in the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay.
McCaffrey said he was told he would be out four to six weeks, adding that he considers the time frame a challenge.
“Hopefully I can get back a lot earlier than that,” he said. “But I’m gonna attack this.”
The Panthers the following Wednesday placed McCaffrey on injured reserve, which in 2020 means he will miss a minimum of three games.
“I hate it for him,” Rhule said of McCaffrey, who the Panthers recently made the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL. “No one wants to be out there and play more than Christian does. He had this for a reason. I’m sure he’s rehabbing right now. I talked to him earlier today and I’m sure he’ll get back as quickly as he can.”
Leading into a Week 8 Thursday Night Football game, the Panthers designated McCaffrey to return from IR, which gives him a 21-day window to ramp up in practice before being activated. That led to speculation that McCaffrey would make his return in Week 8, but he won’t, being ruled out on the day of Carolina’s game against the Falcons. By not playing in Week 8, McCaffrey officially is out longer than the original four-to-six week timeline.
McCaffrey’s next chance to play will be in Kansas City in Week 9, when the Panthers take on the Chiefs. The 10 days between Thursday Night Football and a regular Sunday game in Week 9 could be enough to bring the Panthers’ superstar back to the field.
For the most part, Mike Davis will fill the void left by McCaffrey in the Panthers’ offense. Which is a big ask considering that McCaffrey, an All-Pro selection last season, had scored four of the team’s five touchdowns in 2020 and had 156 of Carolina’s 216 rushing yards before going down.
“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing,” Rhule said. “Mike can run the football. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. When he went in there (Sunday), we didn’t change what we did. He made the most out of his opportunities. I’m sure he will do the same thing (in Week 3 against the Chargers).”
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