Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey on his health and his status for 2021: ‘I’m back to 100%’
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Before the 2020 NFL season, Christian McCaffrey said he rarely, if ever, missed a game because of an injury. He was almost always on the field — in Pop Warner, in high school, at Stanford and with the Carolina Panthers.
That changed in 2020 after he dealt with various injuries from a high ankle sprain, to an AC joint injury and a quad injury. He played in only three games last season and hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 8, 2020.
But McCaffrey, who was back at OTAs on Tuesday, participated without any limitations or noticeable injuries. After the practice he said he felt “really good.”
“I’m back to 100 percent,” he said. “I’m healthy and ready to roll.”
McCaffrey is the Panthers’ best player. And without him last season, the Panthers were unable to generate much of a running game. They also struggled in the fourth quarter and missed him as an option in the red zone.
But Tuesday’s OTA workout, which was open to the media for the first time, showed a glimpse of what is possible for the Panthers this season when McCaffrey is healthy. There were at least two occasions during the practice when McCaffrey caught a pass and went one-on-one in open space with a linebacker. McCaffrey won each battle, including once against linebacker Shaq Thompson.
McCaffrey’s availability will certainly help new Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold. The two players, who competed against each other in college, worked out together in California this offseason after the Panthers traded for Darnold.
“Christian, he’s different,” Darnold said Tuesday, adding that McCaffrey’s ability reminds him of former Jets teammate Le’Veon Bell. “He can do some freaky things on the field. He’s fast. He can run routes.”
McCaffrey said he’s not approaching team practices or training camp any differently this season after the injuries. Though this was his first time dealing with it, he said injuries happen.
“I know how to train. I know how to take care of myself,” McCaffrey said. “Sometimes you just get unlucky. As much as I would love to prevent those, sometimes freaky stuff happens. But I’m completely moved on to this year. My mind is good. My body is even better and I’m fired up.”
McCaffrey has had a busy offseason. He participated in the golf pro-am at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow earlier this month.
He’ll drive the pace car at the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. And in July, his foundation will hold a benefits concert to support troops overcoming trauma and PTSD. McCaffrey, who plays the piano, will also perform during the concert with singer-songwriter Zach Bryan.
“I enjoy doing stuff in the community because it’s fun,” McCaffrey said. “I think it’s our obligation to give back to the community. ... It’s a great way to use my platform to have a positive impact on the world.”
McCaffrey was also asked about potentially changing his jersey number to No. 5. Last week, he posted a picture of himself wearing a No. 5 jersey, the number he wore in college.
As part of a new league rule that allows for wider jersey number flexibility, wide receivers, running backs and cornerbacks are now able to wear single-digit jerseys.
Rookie Jaycee Horn will wear No. 8 and DJ Moore will wear No. 2. Veteran players who wanted to change their numbers to single digits this year had to buy back all the inventory from their old jerseys.
McCaffrey said he’s still considering it.
“It won’t be this year,” McCaffrey said of a possible number change. “We’ll see. I haven’t made my mind up. It’s a number that means a lot to me for a lot of personal reasons. But I’m sticking with 22 this season.”
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