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Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey out 4-6 weeks due to high-ankle sprain

With nearly a quarter left and a two-score deficit to erase Sunday, Christian McCaffrey received a chest pass from Teddy Bridgewater, sprinted wide left and fell forward across the goal line.

The touchdown cut the deficit to just seven points for the McCaffrey's Panthers, but his day was done. McCaffrey exited with an ankle injury, didn't return to the game and now is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high-ankle sprain, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, per a source informed of the situation. The revelation came following an MRI on McCaffrey's injured ankle.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule confirmed to reporters that McCaffrey would miss "multiple weeks" due to the high-ankle sprain, but he declined to speculate on if CMC would be placed on injured reserve, which would sideline him a minimum of three weeks. Rhule also clarified that McCaffrey's injury occurred two plays prior to the TD run, per The Athletic.

"It sucks," McCaffrey told reporters. "To be 100 percent transparent, any time you get injured it's a horrible thing."

McCaffrey added: "They say four to six weeks, well that's a challenge to me. Hopefully I can get back a lot earlier than that, but I'm gonna attack this."

McCaffrey was in the midst of a typical Sunday afternoon for him, carrying the ball 17 times for 52 yards and a touchdown before his 7-yard scoring dash. He'd also caught four passes for 29 yards, falling short of 100 all-purpose yards but still serving as an effective and important part of Carolina's offense, all while looking healthy.

The touchdown run, in which he was tripped up by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White as he crossed the goal line, changed that last observation. Carolina eventually fell to Tampa Bay, 31-17.

The 2020 season hasn't been easy for the Panthers, who have shown they're willing to fight to the bitter end, but have twice come up short in as many games under Rhule. Losing McCaffrey will undoubtedly make the going tougher for Bridgewater and Co., who will be forced to rely on the likes of Mike Davis and continue to feed the ball to D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, who each broke 100 yards receiving Sunday.

It's not impossible; it's just not ideal for a team still trying to find its footing under new leadership. The Panthers will continue forward with their best player watching from the sideline.

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