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As any longtime sports fan can tell you, injuries are an unfortunate reality of sports. The 2020 NFL season, however, has seen more carnage than most, with guys like Dak Prescott, Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, and Christian McCaffrey all getting hurt. Thankfully for Carolina Panthers fans, CMC is getting closer to rejoining the active roster.

While the star running back joined his team on the practice field on Monday, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Christian McCaffrey is getting close to a return, but there’s no reason to get too excited just yet.

Christian McCaffrey has missed five weeks with an ankle injury

Whether you drafted Christian McCaffrey in fantasy football or simply root for the Carolina Panthers, everyone came into the 2020 season talented running back. In reality, though, things haven’t exactly taken off.

After an explosive 2019 campaign when he accounted for a major chunk of the Panthers offense, McCaffrey got off to a solid start to the new season. He rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1; the next time out, the running back only chewed up 59 yards of turf but still found the end zone twice. That second score, however, came at a price.

McCaffrey left the game and didn’t return; he was ultimately diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, landing on the injured reserve. Suddenly, the Panthers found themselves without their top offensive threat.

Despite that seeming death sentence, though, Carolina has managed to hold its own. After going 0-2 with McCaffrey in the lineup, they’ve gone 3-2 without him; while an overall 3-4 record is nothing to get too excited about, things could have gone much worse.

Making a return to the practice field

On Monday, Carolina Panthers fans received an exciting piece of good news: Christian McCaffrey had returned to the practice field with his teammates. Things, however, might not be as positive as they appear.

According to ESPN’s David Newton, McCaffrey “did not participate in Monday’s light workout.” While the running back was physically present, he
“wore a red jersey and did not participate in drills [and] spent much of the media portion greeting teammates he hadn’t been on the field with since the injury.”

Despite that limited involvement, everyone’s mind turned toward the Panthers’ next game and the hope that McCaffrey could retake his place in the offense.

“It would be exciting to see Christian out there if he’s ready to go,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “He’s been working extremely hard.”

Don’t get too excited about Christian McCaffrey’s return just yet

When any player, let alone a star, returns from an injury, it’s only natural to be excited. Christian McCaffrey’s return, however, still warrants a bit of caution.

In some respect, the running back picked the wrong week to retake the practice field; the Panthers face the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football, meaning that McCaffrey only has a few days to prove he’s fit enough to play. With all respect to his natural talent and supreme athleticism, that’s probably cutting it a bit close.

Even if McCaffrey is activated in time for Thursday night, which head coach Matt Rhule said was “a possibility,” he’d probably be on a bit of a pitch count. Given the Falcons’ struggles and the running back’s time on the sidelines, there’s no reason to throw CMC into the deep end right away. There’d be nothing worse than pushing the running back too far after only a few days of practice and risking another injury.

As every football fan can confirm, Christian McCaffrey is one of the most exciting players in the NFL. Expecting him to return to form on a short week, however, is probably a bridge too far.