Christian McCaffrey activated, Sam Darnold clears concussion protocol ahead of today’s game

Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 hands off the football to running back Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers during the Panthers’ football game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – The Carolina Panthers could have two important playmakers on the field this afternoon when the club hosts the New England Patriots.

Running back Christian McCaffrey was officially activated off injured reserve during his 21-day window by the team, and quarterback Sam Darnold has cleared concussion protocol after exiting the Panthers’ Week 9 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons early.

McCaffrey has missed five games with a hamstring injury and eventually took a three-week trip to IR for it. Due to McCaffrey not being activated to the active roster until Saturday, the Panthers did not have to officially assign him an injury designation after each practice during the week, making his status nearly completely unknown.

Head coach Matt Rhule only said McCaffrey practiced in a limited fashion Wednesday but had no other reports for the remainder of the week.

Carolina’s official team website did not officially name him the starter, however, as Darin Gantt said the Panthers are hopeful he plays Sunday afternoon since he was designated to return and did work in practice throughout the week.

Additionally, after being limited all week, Darnold has cleared the NFL’s five-step concussion protocol and is a game-time decision to start under center.

He also hasn’t been named the starter for Sunday due to, what the team calls, a nagging shoulder injury.

If he can’t ultimately go, it’ll be backup P.J. Walker who gets the start in the 1 p.m. showdown at Bank of America Stadium.

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