5 things we learned from Week 3 of Panthers’ training camp

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Chris Manhertz
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Chris Manhertz /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /

Christian McCaffrey, the kick returner?

Christian McCaffrey’s influence on the Carolina Panthers has been there for all to see during his first three years in the NFL. The new face of the franchise has made a historic start to his career. And he is sure to be the focal point of their offense for as long as the running back is still performing at an elite level.

The former first-round pick signed a four-year, $64 million extension with a $21 million signing bonus, and $38 million guaranteed this offseason. This was a further indicator of how much faith the Panthers have in McCaffrey to deliver the goods going forward. And there is a possibility he could be used in a different way in 2020.

McCaffrey is taking reps as the team’s kick returner during training camp so far. This is somewhat surprising given the presence of specialist returner Pharoh Cooper on the roster. But Matt Rhule is keen to get the ball into the hands of his best offensive weapon as often as possible.

"“Anytime you have the ability to get the ball in one of your best player’s hands it is something you have to think about. Again, it’s not something I am sitting here saying we are doing. It’s something I was asked if I would consider, and obviously I would consider it. (But) it’s not in our immediate plans.” “We are repping Christian and we are repping D.J (Moore) at times and if it’s the right situation, if it’s a punter who is giving us returnable balls, and the ball is backed up (in an opponent’s territory), I think you would consider it just a little bit more.”"

Putting even more on McCaffrey’s shoulders does not seem like the smart thing to do. Kick returners are more at risk than most on the field due to the velocity incoming defenders attack. And this seems like an unnecessary risk for the Panthers.

Cooper has been incredibly productive as a return man during his career. So it is hard to envisage a situation where McCaffrey will be tasked with this role in 2020.