In the least shocking news of the 2020 season for the Carolina Panthers, star running back Christian McCaffrey has been listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game at Green Bay and is anticipated to miss his 11th game of the year.
First, it was a high-ankle sprain suffered near the end of Week 2’s game at Tampa that caused him to miss six games, followed by a sprained shoulder seven weeks later in the closing seconds at Kansas City.
He hasn’t played since that close loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 8.
But it’s his latest injury of a strained thigh that is the most unusual as it occurred while rehabbing during the bye week and then aggravated during practice a few days later.
Even with all the trouble McCaffrey has had getting on the field this season, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said thoughts of benching the Pro Bowler haven’t been discussed amongst those in the front office or to McCaffrey.
“I would not bring it up and I know he wants to play,” Rhule said. “If a player came to me and say, ‘Coach, I’m not sure I want to play right now. I’m a little banged up,’ I’d understand. I’d say, ‘Yeah, no problem.’
“If he doesn’t get healthy, I won’t play him. But if he’s a hundred percent healthy, and he wants to play, which I know he does, then we would play him.”
Against the Packers (10-3), who are a game behind New Orleans for grabbing the No. 1 seed in the NFC, Carolina obviously could used all the help it could get. Fortunately for the Panthers (4-9), D.J. Moore will return to the starting lineup.
Moore is second in the NFL in yards-per-catch at 18.5, and 15th in total yards with 924, despite missing last week’s game against Denver.
Even with the return of Moore, the Panthers have to play a near perfect game if they want to win at Lambeau Field. If they play anywhere the way they did against Denver, they have little to no chance.
And Rhule is well aware of that.
“A lot of coaches will make a lot of excuses,” he said. “I won’t make excuses for our lack of execution. We have to execute better and that’s what it’ll take to win.”