Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey 'thankful' to be back on practice field

Position battles are not decided in May, important questions will largely remain unanswered and there are obviously no final scores.

However, upon the start of organized team activities, many a star will return after a season stymied by injury.

One such case Monday was that of perhaps the most electrifying running back in the NFL, as Carolina's Christian McCaffrey had his helmet on and his feet back on the Panthers practice field. And he was grateful for it, no matter how humdrum it might seem to many.

"It feels really good," McCaffrey said, via the team website's Darin Gantt. "Just putting the helmet on again and being with my teammates, doing what I love to do, it's something I'll never take for granted again. I'm super happy to be back.

"It's just fun. It's fun to be back on the field playing football. I'm thankful that we can be back here and get together in a semi-normal capacity and play the game we love."

It's fun to watch McCaffrey on Sundays. He's done things few if any have ever done before, having tallied a 1,000-1,000 season in 2019, which was his second-straight year with 100 receptions.

While McCaffrey has been a marvel on the field and done things seldom seen prior, he proved to be as susceptible as any NFL player to the ravages of injuries. A high ankle sprain sustained in Week 2 had him sidelined until Week 9. Then he suffered a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing for most of the remainder of the campaign before another brief return and a subsequent quad injury.

When all was said and done, McCaffrey had played in three games and dealt with just as many injuries.

So, as many have hopefully realized what a pleasure it is just to watch a player of McCaffrey's ilk shine at his craft, he's realized how thankful he is just to be back on the field.

The former Pro Bowler is drinking in the present and future, though, and looking away from a lost 2020 campaign.

"It happens. Injuries happen. It's part of the game," he said. "I'm really focused on this year and extremely excited about what this team can do this year."

This year provides McCaffrey with the Panthers third starting quarterback in as many season -- all of them former first-rounders.

So far, CMC likes what he's seen from Sam Darnold, who the Panthers acquired via trade from the Jets.

"I've gotten to know him really well in the last few months," McCaffrey said. "Just getting together throwing with him and hanging out off the field. He's an incredible talent and incredible teammate already, so I'm super excited for him.

"I think he'll fit in great. Already fits in great."

While McCaffrey was away for most of last season, the 24-year-old, no matter how grateful he was to be back on the field Monday, still knows there's a long road ahead and no shortage of work to be put in.

"It's day one," he said. "There's going to be stuff we have to work on in Week 16. so there's a bunch of stuff we have to work on now.

"It's just honing in on every rep, every detail, and not looking to the future or the past, but being completely present in every practice and every meeting."

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