CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will miss multiple weeks with a high ankle sprain.
“I hate it for him. No one wants to be out there and play more than Christian does,” head coach Matt Rhule said Monday. “I’m sure he’s rehabbing right now. I talked to him earlier today and I know he’ll get back as soon as he can.”
Athletes who suffer high ankle sprains are typically out four-to-six weeks. Rhule declined to say specifically how long he expected to be without McCaffrey.
The injury occurred two plays prior to McCaffrey’s second touchdown run during the Panthers' loss at the Buccaneers on Sunday, a run up the middle for two yards. McCaffrey had pulled himself out earlier in the day, but Rhule said that was unrelated to the ankle sprain.
The All-Pro running back was removed from the game in the fourth quarter following the touchdown with backup Mike Davis filling his spot. Davis played the final three series and will be the team’s starting back in McCaffrey’s absence.
"Mike Davis is starting tailback in the National Football League. He got out there yesterday, made some great catches, was physical. He was ready when his number was called and he’ll play well in Christian’s absence, " Rhule said. “He’s a big back, he runs with power, he runs good routes, has good hands, can block. He’s really intelligent, he’ll play well for us.”
Davis has never been a full-time starting back in the NFL before. He was originally drafted in fourth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of South Carolina, but has bounced around to different teams, spending time with the Seahawks and Bears as well. Davis has started 10 NFL games throughout his career and played in 49. He averages 3.6 yards per attempt.
Carolina only has one other running back on the active roster — special teams player Trenton Cannon. Reggie Bonnafon is on the practice squad and is likely to be signed to the active roster.
“Reggie is a really good player, and he could step in right away and help us,” Rhule said.
Putting McCaffrey on injured reserve could also be a possibility. Players only are required to remain on the list for a minimum of three weeks and an unlimited number of players can be taken off throughout the season. Rhule said they hope to have a plan at the position by Wednesday’s practice.
The Panthers have a tough schedule ahead. The team travels out west to play the Chargers next week, hosts the Cardinals and then play three division games over the following four weeks (at Falcons, vs. Bears, at Saints, vs. Falcons).
The running back has never missed a game in his three-plus year career. McCaffrey has been responsible for four of the team’s five touchdowns this season. He had 18 carries for 59 yards and four receptions for 29 yards vs. the Bucs.
McCaffrey plays a huge role in the Panthers' offense with Rhule describing earlier in the year as a player he wants to build the team around. He signed a four-year, $64 million extension this offseason and is the highest-paid running back in NFL history. In both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he played over 90 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
The team has already seen numerous starters suffer injuries early in the season with defensive tackle Kawann Short (foot), guard Dennis Daley (ankle) and rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (concussion) all missing time.