Panthers head coach Matt Rhule received a welcome sight at practice on Wednesday.
Running back Christian McCaffrey practiced for the first time since being placed on injured reserve in Week 6. McCaffrey, 25, was designated to return on Wednesday morning, meaning he has a 21-day window to retake the field.
McCaffrey suffered a hamstring strain in Week 3 against the Texans. Last season, he appeared in just three games before suffering injuries to his ankle, shoulder and quadriceps.
McCaffrey hasn’t yet been able to build off his impressive 2019 season, a season in which he recorded 2,392 all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns. That season resulted in a massive pay day for McCaffrey. McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million deal to make him the league’s highest-paid running back.
McCaffrey’s absence has been noticeable in the Panthers offense. After a 3-0 start, Carolina now sits at 4-4. Rookie running back Chuba Hubbard has filled in with 391 yards on the ground, albeit on just 3.6 yards per carry. The passing game has taken a huge hit, with quarterback Sam Darnold missing his most dependable pass catcher besides receiver D.J. Moore.
The Panthers host the Patriots (4-4) on Sunday at 1:00 on CBS. Rhule isn’t ready to say whether McCaffrey will play, but he indicated on Monday they hope to have him back soon.