CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers have decided not to place running back Christian McCaffrey on injured reserve while he recovers from a strained hamstring.
Had McCaffrey been placed on IR he would have missed at least three games under NFL rules.
“We feel like there is hope that he will be back before then — or at least after three games and going into the fourth game,” coach Matt Rhule said Monday. On Friday, Rhule indicated McCaffrey would miss “a few weeks” of action.
The 2019 All-Pro was injured in Carolina’s 24-9 win over the Houston Texans this past Thursday night when he pulled up while running a sweep play in the first quarter. He did not return.
McCaffrey missed 13 games last season with injuries.
Rhule wouldn’t identify a starting running back for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, but expects rookie Chuba Hubbard and veteran Royce Freeman to see “a lot” of work with McCaffrey out. Hubbard, who has been working as McCaffrey’s primary backup this season, had 52 yards on 17 carries, and Freeman had 17 yards on five rushes against the Texans.
Rhule said the Panthers (3-0) could also elevate running back Rodney Smith, who saw action in the Carolina backfield last season, from the practice squad.
The coach said he was pleased with Hubbard’s performance against the Texans.
“In the second half he had a couple of nice runs and caught a ball and powered guys forward,” Rhule said. “Once he got into a rhythm, some of the things we have been working on with him — like not slipping and not falling — all of a sudden, with a couple of carries and couple of touches he got his legs underneath him and you saw some of the explosiveness that he has.”