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The Panthers escaped a significant absence when superstar running back Christian McCaffrey left Thursday night's game with what appeared at the time to be a substantial hamstring injury, though an exact timetable for his return has yet to be set, sources said.

McCaffrey, who missed almost all of 2020 due to a series of injuries after a record-setting 2019 campaign, limped off the field in Thursday's victory over the Texans and did not return. However, sources said the strain was diagnosed as less than a Grade 1 (a grade .50 as one source put it), which was a considerable relief to Carolina's coaches and staff, who are banking on McCaffrey as a workhorse in the run and pass game.

One source estimated it would be an absence of at least a couple of weeks, though McCaffrey is known for being a quick healer and someone who can shatter expectations. If nothing else, McCaffrey will definitely miss the Week 4 contest, with the Panthers among a handful of undefeated teams thus far early in the NFL season.

The former first-round pick is eager to get back to playing regularly after signing a record running back contract prior to last season. McCaffrey played just three games last season but had over 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing in the 2019 season, becoming one of the faces of the NFL.

Last season he was never really able to get going, missing extended time with an ankle injury originally and then suffering a shoulder injury and a thigh injury as well.

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