Christian McCaffrey not expected to play vs. Vikings despite returning to practice

Alaina Getzenberg
·4 min read

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who has been nursing a shoulder injury, was in attendance at Wednesday’s practice, however, coach Matt Rhule said that the team is not expecting the running back to play Sunday in Minnesota.

He wore a red “injured” jersey and was a limited participant at practice, getting a couple of reps.

“Just kind of working him back in, not really expecting him to play,” Rhule said. “Just trying to get him back out there, get him comfortable. As always, with of both them (McCaffrey and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater) we’ll see how they respond, see how they feel tomorrow.”

Bridgewater was a full participant in practice after missing last week’s game due to a right knee injury. Rhule said that he expects the quarterback to start against the Vikings, the team that drafted Bridgewater in 2014. Rookie safety Sam Franklin (ankle) was also a full participant after missing last week’s game.

“I’m feeling good,” Bridgewater said. “It’s always tough being on the sideline, when you have that urge, that fire lit underneath you, but I was just happy for (backup quarterback) P.J. (Walker) to get out there.”

Bridgewater was in attendance and limited at practice all of last week but was ruled out just prior to the start of the game, partly due to his history of an injured left knee that led to the end of his time in Minnesota.

“It really was at that time, basically went with the medical part, but heart-wise and person-wise and everything else, he was always terrific in that aspect,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said of the decision to move on from Bridgewater in 2018. “At that point in time, like I said before, the odds of a guy having a long career and playing with the (injuries in his left knee) that he had, was not very good. So that was mostly a medical decision based on that, other than anything else.”

For McCaffrey, Wednesday was the first day he has been in attendance since he injured his AC joint on the final drive of the team’s Week 9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

He has missed a combined eight games due to injury. McCaffrey missed six games earlier in the season with a high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve.

The Panthers (4-7) will travel to play the Minnesota Vikings (4-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday. Carolina has gone 4-4 in games the running back has not played in.

After the game in Minnesota, the Panthers will have their long awaited bye week, which will only aid McCaffrey’s recovery process. Rhule has said that he expects the running back to play again this season.

“I’m only focused on him right now. I think he got out there, he moved around. He’s making progress,” Rhule said. “As soon as he’s ready to play, we will play him. As soon as he’s full go we’ll put him out there and he feels confident and the medical people feel confident, we’ll put him out there.”

In his one game back from injury in Kansas City, the 2019 All-Pro had a combined 151 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. He has had two touchdowns in every game he has played this year. Only eight players in the NFL, including McCaffrey, have three or more games with two-plus touchdowns.

McCaffrey became the highest-paid running back in NFL history when he was signed to a four-year, $64 million extension in April. Prior to this season, he had not missed an NFL game during his first three years in the league.

Mike Davis has played well as the starting back in his place but has not mirrored McCaffery’s scoring production. Davis has five touchdowns this year, one fewer than McCaffrey.

Other injury updates: Offensive lineman Dennis Daley (concussion) and cornerback Donte Jackson (toe) both did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Daley was injured during the game against the Detroit Lions, and Jackson has been dealing with the lingering toe injury for the majority of the season.

In addition to McCaffrey, guard John Miller (knee/ankle) and left tackle Russell Okung (calf) were limited in practice.