CHARLOTTE — Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey is expected to miss “multiple weeks” with a high right ankle sprain he sustained in Carolina’s 31-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule said on a conference call Monday: “I hate it for him. No one wants to be out there more than Christian does. But everything happens for a reason. I’m sure he is rehabbing right now.”
High ankle sprains are generally considered a 4 to 6 week injury, but Rhule said he had no timeline for McCaffrey’s return.
The Panthers (0-2) will turn to Mike Davis as their starting running back when they visit the Chargers this Sunday. It’s possible the team could sign Reggie Bonnafon — McCaffrey’s primary backup last season — from the practice squad to provide depth.
McCaffrey left the game early in the fourth quarter after scoring his second touchdown, which cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 21-14 and gave the Panthers some life. He limped to the sideline and never returned. Rhule said he actually injured the ankle a few plays before that.
“He was upset that he wasn’t out there at the end to help us,” Rhule said.
In two games this season McCaffrey has run for 156 yards and four touchdowns and caught seven passes for 67 yards.
The loss of McCaffrey is a huge blow for the Panthers’ offense.
He was the team’s best offensive playmaker in 2019, becoming only the third player in NFL history to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. The Panthers rewarded the fourth-year running back with a four-year, $64 million contract making him the highest-paid running back in the league.
Rhule said Davis is a “starting tailback in the National Football League and was ready to play. He will play well in Christian’s absence.”
Rhule said the offense won’t change with Davis in the starting lineup.
“He made the most of his opportunities on Sunday,” Rhule said.