Christian McCaffrey missed 23 of the Carolina Panthers’ past 33 games due to injury. But fear of another season derailed won’t stop coach Matt Rhule from saddling up his top back.
“I’m not spending my time worrying about, ‘hey, will Christian get hurt?'” Rhule said Wednesday, via the Associated Press. “We are thinking about Christian in one way only — and that’s attack.”
After his 1,000/1,000 season in 2019, McCaffrey played just three games in 2020 and appeared in seven last season.
Rhule, who called McCaffrey a “dominant, dominant, dominant football player,” noted that injuries are just part of playing running back.
“He plays a high-contact, high-percentage-of-injury position,” Rhule said. “We’re going to put him out there and play him. We want to have all of our best players for as long as possible.”
The Panthers signed free agent D'Onta Foreman from the Tennessee Titans this offseason to go along with Chuba Hubbard and give Carolina options if injury does strike again.
To open 2021, the Panthers gave McCaffrey nearly 30 touches in each of the first two games. Then the back went down in Week 3 with a hamstring injury. He attempted to return later in the season, averaging 17 touches from Weeks 9-12 before going back on the shelf.
McCaffrey noted that some of his injuries have been freak incidents.
“I had a couple 300-pound guys fall on my ankle while I was already down,” McCaffrey said. “I would love to know if there is a drill someone has got out there to prevent that from happening, because I would do that every day.”
How the Panthers handle McCaffrey’s workload when the season opens — he’s not expected to participate in preseason action — will be worth tracking. Does Rhule saddle him up for 30 touches once again, or does he siphon off some of the load to Foreman and Hubbard in hopes of keeping CMC fresh and on the field for the entire season?
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