It’s time to take the shackles off Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

The time has finally arrived for the Carolina Panthers to finally take the shackles off their star running back Christian McCaffrey.

There is a huge sense of excitement within everyone associated with the Carolina Panthers to see Christian McCaffrey on the field once again. It was a frustrating 2020 season for the All-Pro running back, who featured in three games to lose his streak of appearing in every game since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2017.

Not having McCaffrey leading the charge was a big blow to the Panthers. Something that came with more than a few ramifications after a second-straight 5-11 finish in the first year of Matt Rhule’s reign.

Had McCaffrey been in the backfield for those crucial moments where Carolina fell short, they could have mustered another win or two. And who knows, this might have been enough for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to get a reprieve and not get shipped to the Denver Broncos for a sixth-round pick.

A case of what might have been. But thankfully, McCaffrey is certainly raring to go as he looks to make people remember just what a special talent he is.

Christian McCaffrey will be eager to make up for some lost time.

It’s easy to overlook the fact McCaffrey was the third player in NFL history to go over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving the last time he was available for a full schedule in 2019. Numbers that the Stanford product is keen to replicate in the coming months.

McCaffrey looked sensational in training camp. He appears in a supreme physical condition and the explosiveness was there for all to see, which only heightens expectations about what this team could potentially achieve now their face of the franchise has returned.

The Panthers were right to err on the side of caution where McCaffrey was concerned in all three warmup games, where he didn’t play a single snap.

Although this was disappointing to fans that attended their two contests at Bank of America Stadium, there was absolutely no point putting him in harm’s way in a meaningless fixture.

Few players keep themselves in shape like McCaffrey.

But now is the time for the Panthers to take off the shackles.

McCaffrey will have plenty of responsibility on his shoulders when he goes up against the New York Jets in Week 1. He’ll be tasked with generating some early yardage, making things easier for quarterback Sam Darnold to get one over on his former team.

Having McCaffrey in the lineup changes the whole dynamic. Teams have to stack the box in an attempt to thwart his threat – leaving additional space for Carolina’s impressive pass-catching weapons to make their presence felt.

It might be worth the Panthers taking McCaffrey out of the firing line now and again. Chuba Hubbard showed he could play a part judging by his preseason production, with the recent addition of Royce Freeman something else that might assist if his transition to the Panthers is a smooth one.

Everything might not rest on McCaffrey as in years gone by. But the lift he will give players, coaches, and fans alike will be enormous.

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It feels like an age since we saw McCaffrey at the peak of his powers. We won’t have to wait much longer.