What was expected to be an optimistic update on Christian McCaffrey turned into a pessimistic one on Thursday.
McCaffrey has missed two straight games with a hamstring strain. Matt Rhule and the Panthers haven’t placed the superstar back on the injured reserve up to this point, though, meaning there was optimism he would return before a third-straight missed game.
That third-game threshold will take place this Sunday when the Panthers take on the Minnesota Vikings. Will McCaffrey be available? It’s starting to sound like he won’t be.
McCaffrey did not practice during the open portion of practice available to the media on Thursday afternoon.
No sign of RB Christian McCaffrey at the open portion of practice.
He’s been doing limited work for the last four practices as he recovers from hamstring strain.
— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) October 14, 2021
The Panthers are an entirely different football team when Christian McCaffrey’s on the field.
Unfortunately, hamstring strains are tough to predict. It’s plausible the star back suffered another setback this week.
Hamstring sprains are extremely unpredictable when it comes to time of recovery and it sucks. Source: myself currently dealing with a hamstring sprain. https://t.co/lwefcCgBE4
— Khalil (@KhalilJewJacobs) October 14, 2021
We're still on the early side of CMC's return timetable. https://t.co/ntrU2DDjLi
— Paul Charchian (@PaulCharchian) October 14, 2021
Weird to see Christian McCaffrey trending in the opposite direction of what we saw last week, so I'm expecting him not to play this week.
Chuba Hubbard hasn't found pay dirt yet, but he's averaged 22.5 touches over the last two weeks and is a strong play against the Vikings. https://t.co/PN65OXvp1G
— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) October 14, 2021
Not ideal. https://t.co/P75bjFwGiK
— The Riot Report (@RRiotReport) October 14, 2021
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) October 14, 2021
It’s unlikely but also plausible Matt Rhule doesn’t want to show his hand just yet.
If McCaffrey’s available to play this Sunday, Rhule doesn’t want the Vikings to know about it. That would change their defensive game-plan.
“Going against the negative tone I’ve seen from others,” wrote PFF’s Kent Weyrauch via Twitter. “CMC can easily start and perform without practicing that week. This could just be them playing it safe.”
Did McCaffrey suffer yet another injury setback? Or is Rhule playing with a bit of gamesmanship?
We’ll find out on Sunday when the Panthers clash with the Vikings.