Carolina Panthers paying the price for Christian McCaffrey’s workload

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

The Carolina Panthers are now paying the price for putting too much on Christian McCaffrey’s shoulders in recent years.

It was always going to come back and haunt the Carolina Panthers at some stage. But the workload given to Christian McCaffrey is once again causing some real complications.

According to Ian Rappaport of the NFL Network, the star running back suffered a setback and was not seen at practice on Thursday, meaning his status ahead of Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings is in some serious doubt.

This would be the third game McCaffrey‘s missed after injuring his hamstring on Thursday Night Football at the Houston Texans, which was a body blow to the player and everyone associated with the organization.

One only has to look at how much the Panthers’ offense has struggled without McCaffrey over the last two contests to see how important he is. Carolina hasn’t won a game since and quarterback Sam Darnold’s thrown five interceptions compared to just one over the opening three outings.

McCaffrey is the NFL’s best dual-threat back when healthy.

But reliability is becoming an ever-increasing problem where the former first-round pick is concerned,

This is down in no small part to the monumental workload on McCaffrey’s shoulders outside of his rookie season. In 54 career games – 48 of which he’s started – the Stanford product has accumulated 1,070 combined touches, which equates to 19.81 per game.

Considering he was used as a rotational back during his rookie season, that is astonishing.

And simply unsustainable.

Christian McCaffrey cannot dictate his own situation any longer.

It’s all well and good the coaching staff saying McCaffrey wants his many touches. But who’s actually in charge here?

If it’s the player, then the Panthers have a real problem.

Although McCaffrey is an influential member of the locker room and the face of the franchise, for him to be dictating just how many touches he’s getting healthy or otherwise is not the recipe for success.

This all started last year when McCaffrey missed 13 games. The early signs in 2021 were promising, even though it resulted in 68 touches in a little more than two games before another problem emerged.

How ironic that this comes after McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million extension with a $21 million signing bonus and $38 million guaranteed. He hadn’t missed a single game before then.

It’s not known just what this setback actually involves or how severe it is. Perhaps it’s more of a precaution on McCaffrey’s behalf from the Panthers, who must learn to wrap their star player in cotton wool whenever possible.

Rushing him back again would come with potentially grave consequences. The Panthers can ill-afford to be paying a player who simply cannot stay healthy and can’t be reined in when it comes to declaring his own fitness ahead of time.

The murmurings of a trade involving McCaffrey grew a little louder from some fans on social media, which is simply not going to happen. Patience is not a virtue for supporters that have been starved of success in recent years, even if it is the only viable option where McCaffrey is concerned.

When the player returns, the Panthers simply must be smarter in their approach.

Their insistence to rely heavily on McCaffrey too much is now biting back. Unless things change, then it’s going to jeopardize the team’s chances of maximizing the back’s production throughout the duration of his new contract.

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After all, the last thing the Panthers and McCaffrey want is for the fans to turn on one of the most talented players to ever put on a Carolina uniform because they mismanaged his health and usage.