It's not the worst case scenario for the Carolina Panthers, but it is still very much a gut punch. On a Sunday that saw top talent around the league lost to injury -- several of them being major in nature -- running back Christian McCaffrey joined the list when he was knocked out of the Week 2 contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an ankle injury. Those wondering if the All-Pro will be available for Week 3 need wonder no more, with unpleasant news arriving on Monday. McCaffrey is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, which makes him a candidate to land on injured reserve.
The star running back is hoping to return much sooner than the projected 4-6 weeks, however.
"That's a challenge to me," McCaffrey said to several Panthers writers, via ESPN's Adam Schefter. "And I'm gonna attack it, like I attack anything else."
Should the Panthers move him to IR, he'll be eligible to return after three weeks, but not before. McCaffrey is hoping to avoid the injured reserve designation and speed up the recovery process, even though he is devastated by the news.
"I hate it for him. No one wants to be out there and play more than Christian does, but everything happens for a reason," said Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, via the Panthers website. "I'm sure he'll rehab. I'm sure he's rehabbing right now. I talked to him earlier today and he'll get back as soon as he can."
His absence will create a void on the offense that rivals the size of the Grand Canyon, considering McCaffrey is not simply a 1,000-yard rusher, but also a 1,000-yard receiver. It's that cosmic value to the club that led them to make him the highest-paid RB in the history of the league this offseason, awarding him a four-year, $64 million extension with more than $31.8 million guaranteed. There isn't a person alive who could justify him not deserving it, and Matt Rhule must now figure out how to climb out of an 0-2 hole without the benefit of McCaffrey's presence -- easily one of the most lethal weapons in football.
That will put a ton of pressure on Teddy Bridgewater as well in his first year with the team, and it'll be interesting to see if Carolina looks to bring in someone to take over the No. 1 role at the position, or if they'll simply look to add depth and demand more from backups Mike Davis and Trenton Cannon. One option could be free agent Devonta Freeman, but the Pro Bowler's price might suddenly be going up following an injury-ravaged NFL weekend. Thanks to what's believed , Freeman is meeting with the New York Giants after having sat down with the Philadelphia Eagles in the past several days, the Panthers would have stiff competition in any bid to land Freeman.
Time will tell how and if they can even come close to filling McCaffrey's role(s) until he's ready to return in over a month from now, but what appears almost certain is that it'll be while before he can.