Christian McCaffrey finally got back on the field this Sunday after missing six games due to an ankle injury. The All-Pro running back looked like his old self against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he suffered yet another injury setback in the Carolina Panthers‘ close loss.
McCaffrey hurt his shoulder during his return on Sunday, and he could miss even more time going forward.
Christian McCaffrey returns from ankle injury
When Christian McCaffrey was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain in Week 2, Panthers fans went into a dark place. McCaffrey is the do-it-all guy for Carolina’s offense, and he can take over a game better than maybe anyone in the NFL right now.
Mike Davis filled in admirably for the injured McCaffrey in his absence. The Panthers even rattled off three straight wins without their best offensive player in the lineup, but they were thrilled to get him back after he missed six games.
McCaffrey returned to the field this Sunday against the Chiefs, and he looked like his typical, dominant self. The RB rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown and added 10 catches for 82 yards and another score. He was the most dynamic player for Carolina’s offense all game.
The Panthers fell 33-31 in a hard-fought effort against the reigning Super Bowl champs, but they were just glad to get their superstar playmaker back.
Well, not so fast.
McCaffrey suffers another injury setback
With McCaffrey back in the lineup, the Panthers proved they can hang with any team in the NFL with a healthy offense. Not many teams can hang with Patrick Mahomes and company at Arrowhead, but Carolina nearly pulled off the upset.
The heartbreaking loss was made even worse the next morning. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Monday that McCaffrey suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to the Chiefs.
The extent of the injury is not yet known, and McCaffrey will undergo more tests today to find out. His chances of playing this coming Sunday are ‘very much in doubt,’ according to Rapoport.
Are the Panthers overworking McCaffrey?
Obviously, the Panthers want the ball in McCaffrey’s hands as much as possible. The All-Pro running back can make defenders miss in a variety of ways, and he’s by far the best playmaker on Carolina’s offense.
But one has to wonder whether the Panthers are overworking McCaffrey. He led the NFL in touches last season with 403. It might’ve worked last year, but the mileage might be starting to add up.
McCaffrey injured his ankle after receiving 48 touches in the first two games of the season. Then, after missing six games, McCaffrey touched the ball 28 times in his first game back from his high ankle sprain. No. 22 is a warrior, but his smaller frame can only handle so much punishment from NFL defenders.
We’ve seen this before with running backs getting burnt out early in their careers because of excessive workloads. The Panthers might have to rethink their strategy with McCaffrey going forward if they want him to stay healthy for the long haul.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference