Already struggling through a stretch of poor play, Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold now is seeing his season get even tougher.
Darnold suffered an incomplete fracture in his right (throwing) shoulder blade and will miss four to six weeks with the injury, Panthers coach Matt Rhule confirmed in a news conference Wednesday.
Carolina is coming off of a 24-6 loss Sunday against the New England Patriots in which Darnold completed only 16 of 33 passes for 172 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He posted a QB rating of 26.3.
One of those interceptions came late in the third quarter when the game was still within reach — Carolina facing an eight-point deficit at the time — and was returned 88 yards by cornerback J.C. Jackson for a Patriot touchdown.
On Monday, Rhule said that Darnold reported having soreness after the game and added that Darnold would be undergoing an MRI. Rhule also faced questions about whether he would commit to Darnold as the team's starter, given the quarterback's struggles.
"I think right now we're focused on him and his health," Rhule said Monday. "Those of us at the game, we know, and Sam would be the first to tell you, that wasn't good enough from the quarterback position. We had guys open with some opportunities we weren't able to connect on. Too many batted balls, can't happen at this level, and obviously three giveaways. When you look at our season, when we've protected the football, we've had a chance to win, and when we've given the ball away multiple times, we all know the results. ...
"In terms of where we are moving forward and all those things, we'll always try to do whatever it takes to be great. I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and all those things. I kind of handle things one bit at a time. See where Sam's health is, and then make the best decisions after that."
Darnold, 24, has completed 59.5% of his passes for 1,986 yards with seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions, which is tied for most in the NFL with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Darnold has also rushed for five touchdowns this season.
Carolina's backup quarterback is P.J. Walker, who became known for his standout play in the XFL over the late winter of 2020. On Sunday, the Panthers (4-5) will play the Arizona Cardinals (8-1), the team with the best record in the NFL.
The Panthers also announced on Tuesday that they would be signing veteran backup Matt Barkley off of the Titans practice squad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Panthers' Sam Darnold out 4-6 weeks with fracture in shoulder