The injured dynamic of Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers


The Carolina Panthers didn’t care to learn from history when they paid off a running back. They were therefore rightly condemned to repeat it. . . law?

Well, maybe not like you think.

Look, you’re probably pretty pissed off reading this, especially if you’re a fan of the team. Your pain and frustration is understandable and felt. (Yes, we read your responses to our injury updates daily.)

Since making Christian McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in league history last year, the Panthers have barely seen him on the pitch. They haven’t come close to a four-year, $ 64 million return on investment that will take effect in 2022, as he has now suffered injuries to his ankle, shoulder, buttocks and, more recently, to his hamstrings for the past 13 months.

The latter strain, after having kept him away from their last two defeats in this 2021 campaign, will officially put him on the sidelines for three more weeks. Carolina announced on Saturday afternoon (in a “We’ll just slip this in there” style) that McCaffrey was heading towards a passage in the casualty reserve.

When this is over, the once ubiquitous workhorse will have missed at least 18 of Carolina’s last 24 games. The man who has always had to be taken into account by the opposing defenses can unfortunately not count on his own team for the moment.

But it’s not the history of the NFL, which has proven the modest lifespan of running backs, that the Panthers have chosen to bypass. It’s not like that theirs the story that comes back to haunt them.

The last time the franchise had such a shining star, it had quarterback Cam Newton. Like McCaffrey, but to an even greater degree, Carolina couldn’t help but repeatedly go into the prosperous well that Newton built with his unparalleled talent, rare athleticism, physical attributes and versatility. overall.

His well, however, dried up far too quickly.

The previous regime’s over-reliance on Newton and his body, mixed with gross neglect of his health and the support that surrounded him, dramatically shortened what should have been a longer relationship.

As well as averaging 7.5 runs per game over his nine-year career there (to the ferocity with which he raced), the team’s confidence has enabled his quarterback MVP to play through an injured right shoulder. Several times.

While there is something to be said about driving a Corvette like Newton’s when you have one, it’s not fair to keep racking up miles on this car when you don’t give it the right maintenance. McCaffrey experienced a similar type of addiction.

To head coach Matt Rhule’s credit, who took a more thoughtful approach to recovery, this addiction didn’t start with him. Over the past four seasons, McCaffrey played in at least 97 percent of offensive snaps in 20 games. 19 of them were under the tutelage of Ron Rivera.

He has, however, seen a monstrous workload since Rivera left. In the five full games he’s played under Rhule, McCaffrey has averaged 27 screaming touches per game. Even with a particular focus on self-care heading into his fifth pro season, McCaffrey (or any other human being) probably couldn’t have maintained such high activity levels.

On a larger scale, you can’t blame the Panthers organization for putting its eggs in the McCaffrey basket. He’s a really special player, perhaps an outlier in position, who can greatly affect the game like no other running back can.

Also, let’s not pretend that its market value had nothing to do with this expansion. Having an exciting (and good-looking, if we’re being honest) player on board to help pacify a fanbase early in a rebuild is a nice lifeline to take advantage of.

While you can highlight its use, there just isn’t always a culprit waiting to be blamed on the other side of an unwanted outcome or unfortunate event. Things are happening.

For the Panthers and McCaffrey, these things have happened a little too often.


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