Panthers QB Sam Darnold not close to returning

Panthers HC Matt Rhule confirmed on Monday that QB Sam Darnold is not close to a return from injury.

Even if Sam Darnold could save the Carolina Panthers (he still probably couldn’t), it won’t be happening anytime soon.

Late Monday morning, two reports—the first from CBS Sports lead NFL insider Jonathan Jones and a subsequent one from ESPN insider Adam Schefter—both noted that Darnold is still a ways off from a return. The fifth-year quarterback sustained a high-ankle sprain in the preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills, a setback that led to his placement on injured reserve to start the campaign.

Head coach Matt Rhule would later confirm that belief when talking to reporters this afternoon.

“Not close right now,” he said when asked of Darnold’s timetable. “Not this week. Maybe he starts his window maybe the next week. But just from the doctors, he’s not gonna be practicing this week.”

The curiosity surrounding Darnold’s possible return has arisen for two reasons. One, he is now eligible to be activated off IR after his four-week stint. And two, have you seen Baker Mayfield this season?

Through four games, Mayfield has steered the Panthers offense into oblivion—having completed just 54.7 percent of his passes (which would stand as a career-low) for 747 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. And, unfortunately, he’s not gotten any better of late, as evidenced by Sunday’s messy loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Sadly, Rhule and the Panthers will likely have to just ride this one out.

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Panthers HC Matt Rhule doesn’t commit to keeping Baker Mayfield as starter

When asked if he’ll consider benching Baker Mayfield for Sam Darnold after another ugly week, Panthers HC Matt Rhule didn’t give a sure answer.

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We’re just four games into the 2022 season and the Carolina Panthers already might be souring on their Baker Mayfield experiment.

Following Sunday’s 26-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, one in which his offense looked as broken as ever, head coach Matt Rhule took the podium for a somber press conference. He was asked if Mayfield, who struggled mightily throughout the outing, was in danger of being benched.

“Nah. I didn’t think about that today. I was just kinda in the moment like, ‘Hey, go to the next drive,'” Rhule said. “Obviously, I know it wasn’t good enough. And I know the numbers aren’t what they need to be—in a lot of different areas. I have to, even as I said to the team, go back and see, ‘Hey, why is this happening? Why are we not playing better than this?’ I know we have the personnel on offense to make plays and it’s just not coming together the way it needs to.”

Mayfield—in yet another disappointing performance filled with overthrown passes and batted down balls—completed 22 of his 36 attempts for 197 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The offense as a whole, in turn, amassed only 220 total yards and converted on just two of their ten third-down tries against what had been a terribly generous Arizona defense.

So, if Rhule wasn’t thinking of replacing Mayfield in this game, will he do it for next one? With Sam Darnold eligible to be activated from injured reserve this week, ESPN’s David Newton asked if a switch is already in order.

“Yeah, I don’t have any thoughts about anything moving forward yet,” Rhule replied. “I can talk right now, really, about this game. I don’t know anything in terms of anybody health-wise. So, I can’t make any comments on that. For me right now, obviously, we’re gonna go back, we’re gonna watch the tape, we’re gonna try to get these things corrected. Usually on Monday, I’ll give you guys some better answers in terms of exactly what we’ll try to do moving forward.”

Monday’s presser should be interesting then, huh?

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Could a loss to the Saints end Matt Rhule’s run with the Panthers?

A loss to the Saints on Sunday would put Matt Rhule at 0-3 to start his third season, with a 10-game losing streak stretching back to last November. Could that do him in?

Are we witnessing the final weeks of the Matt Rhule regime? The embattled Carolina Panthers head coach has struggled to find on-field success since being hired back in 2020, at times feuding with his former offensive coordinator Joe Brady and local media in Carolina. Speculation is already swirling about his interest in returning to college as Nebraska’s next coach, replacing Scott Frost. His Panthers team has finished third and fourth in the division standings in the last two years, and now they’re 0-2 with the New Orleans Saints coming to town. Could another loss do him in?

Rhule’s team won five games in his first year on the job, which was kind of a wash given all of the chaos surrounding the 2020 season. Teddy Bridgewater started 15 of those games, completing 340 of his 492 passes (69.2%) for 3,733 yards, scoring 15 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions (while also running 53 times for 279 yards and 5 touchdown carries). Bridgewater was sacked 31 times and committed 6 fumbles.

That wasn’t enough to keep Rhule from making a change, bringing in Sam Darnold as his new starter. Darnold started 11 games, completing 234 of his 406 attempts (59.9%) for 2,527 yards, scoring 9 touchdown passes while throwing 13 interceptions (and running 48 times to gain 222 yards, scoring 5 touchdowns on the ground). He fumbled 9 times and took 35 sacks. Carolina only won five games in Rhule’s season season.

Now they’re starting Baker Mayfield, who has completed 30 of his first 56 pass attempts (53.6%), scoring 2 touchdown passes and throwing 1 interception. He’s run 11 times, gaining 41 yards and scoring another touchdown, but he’s already taken 6 sacks going into Week 3. He hasn’t fumbled yet, though. But it’s really hard to look at those stat lines and come away thinking Rhule has downgraded at quarterback — twice.

The Panthers’ 2021 season ended with a seven-game losing streak, and it’s stretched into 2022 after they lost each of their first two games. Another defeat this Sunday to the Saints would make for a 10-game streak of losses (they haven’t won a game since Nov. 14, 2021), and it’s really tough to see someone surviving that. It would drop Rhule’s record as an NFL head coach to 10-25 overall, meaning he’d have lost as many games in a row as he’s won in total. It’s also how many consecutive losses it took the Raiders to fire Dennis Allen.

But it would be unusual for a team to fire its head coach this early in the season.  Allen experienced a similar rocky start with the Raiders but they waited until after Week 4 (back in 2014) to cut him loose. The Jaguars waited until mid-December to jettison Urban Meyer last year. Even the least successful head coaches tend to hang around until October. While it sure looks as if Rhule is on the hot seat, and college opportunities will be out there (he rose to prominence at Temple and Baylor before making the jump to the NFL), it would be kind of a stunner to see him dismissed just three weeks into the season. And that’s contingent on the Saints actually winning on Sunday. We’ve got to remember that the Panthers got the better of them in this same venue just last year.

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Panthers HC Matt Rhule isn’t second-guessing QB competition

Did the Panthers waste too many first-team reps on Sam Darnold this summer? Sunday’s performance might say they did, but Matt Rhule isn’t looking back.

Despite trading for Baker Mayfield back on July 6—a pretty clear reaction to the uncertainty of Sam Darnold’s capabilities—Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was dead set on having himself a quarterback competition this summer. And now, he might be paying the price.

Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Cleveland Browns was largely a comedy of errors, one that was perhaps highlighted by four botched snaps between Mayfield and center Pat Elflein. It was quite apparent, on each and every one of those four (four!) fumbles, that the chemistry just wasn’t there for the offense’s battery.

So, naturally, that gets you to think—did the Panthers waste too much time holding their quarterback battle? Did they take precious first-teams reps away from Mayfield, who was always the heavy favorite to earn the staring job, by entertaining Darnold?

Well, Rhule—who spoke with reporters on Monday following the Week 1 defeat—doesn’t believe so.

“I think the starting competition was what it was,” Rhule said. “I can’t go back. I think we had to do was right for the team and be certain about who our quarterback was. Yesterday was one of 17. The snaps, they were kinda a mixed bag. A couple hit Baker right in the hands, and we kinda expect him to catch those. And one was low.”

Luckily for Carolina, Mayfield did not lose any of those four fumbles. He did, though, struggle mightily throughout the course of the outing—particularly in a painfully disoriented first three quarters.

But, hey, at least there’s 16 more to go!

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Panthers placing QB Sam Darnold on IR

The Panthers are placing QB Sam Darnold on the IR, keeping him out for at least the first four weeks of the season.

The Carolina Panthers came into the day needing to make room on their new 53-man roster for a kicker. So, they did.

Per general manager Scott Fitterer, the team will officially place quarterback Sam Darnold on the injured reserve. The fifth-year passer will be eligible to return after four weeks, with the timetable beginning at the start of the regular season.

“We think it’s four to six [weeks]. There was a lot of concern that it would be six to eight,” Rhule said following Wednesday’s practice. “They did additional testing and the great news is it didn’t have some of the structural issues that can maybe sometimes come with that injury. So it should be about four to six weeks.”

Darnold was carted away from last week’s season finale after Buffalo Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer rolled over his left foot. He was later diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain.

As for who will be on the roster by Week 1, PJ Walker is in line to be the backup to Baker Mayfield while Eddy Piñeiro has taken over kicking duties for the injured Zane Gonzalez.

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Report: Panthers QB Sam Darnold expected to miss 4-6 weeks

According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Panthers QB Sam Darnold is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold really needed some good news on Saturday. After leaving last night’s preseason finale on a cart and losing out to Baker Mayfield in the team’s competition under center before that, this camel might not have been able to take one more straw.

Well, luckily, it didn’t—as he got a relatively positive diagnosis from his MRI.

According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Darnold is expected to miss just four to six weeks upon sustaining what is likely a high-ankle sprain. The fifth-year passer saw an early and ugly exit after Buffalo Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer rolled over his foot on Friday—an incident that, thankfully, wasn’t as damaging as it initially looked.

Before being sent away to the locker room, Darnold completed five of his 11 attempts for 49 yards in his first time out as the official backup to Mayfield. He also rushed for a 1-yard score in the third quarter.

If the Panthers want to keep Darnold into the regular season, he must be included on the 53-man roster by Tuesday’s deadline. So if that’s the case, which it very likely is, PJ Walker’s chances of sticking around and holding it down behind Mayfield just got a lot better.

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Panthers QB Sam Darnold believed to have sustained high-ankle sprain

The early prognosis is a high-ankle sprain for Panthers QB Sam Darnold, who will undergo an MRI this morning to determine the severity of his injury.

A tough week only got tougher for Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold on Friday night. So, hopefully, Saturday morning doesn’t bring any more bad news for the newly anointed backup.

That’s when Darnold is set to undergo an MRI on his left ankle, which he injured in last night’s preseason finale. The fifth-year passer was carted off in the third quarter of the 21-0 victory after Buffalo Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer rolled over his foot.

The early prognosis for Darnold, according to ESPN’s David Newton, is a high-ankle sprain. If that is indeed the case for the 25-year-old, such an injury would typically take four to six weeks to heal.

Darnold missed five games last year, in his first season with the Panthers, upon fracturing his right shoulder blade in a 24-6 loss to the New England Patriots. That caused the team to go out and sign Cam Newton—a prospect that was once again mentioned to head coach Matt Rhule following the Friday’s exhibition outing.

This time, however, the Panthers seem firmly set on allowing Baker Mayfield to be their guy under center. Mayfield impressed in his second serving of preseason work, completing nine of his 15 throws for 89 yards and two touchdowns on the Bills’ second-team defense.

Now, it’s just a matter of who will be backing Mayfield up—something Darnold may not be able to do in kicking off this all-important 2022 campaign.

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Panthers HC Matt Rhule asked if he’d consider signing Cam Newton (again)

With Sam Darnold believed to have sustained a high-ankle sprain, Panthers HC Matt Rhule was asked if he’d consider signing Cam Newton as a backup.

On Friday night, Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Sam Darnold—in his first official outing as a Carolina Panthers backup quarterback—was carted off the field during third quarter of the 2022 preseason finale. And as of now, the outlook isn’t particularly great for the 25-year-old.

According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, the Panthers believe Darnold—who had his foot rolled on by the 290-pound body of Buffalo Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer—may have sustained a high-ankle sprain. Head coach Matt Rhule, who did mention after the game that the injury is likely not a fracture, said Darnold is set for an MRI on Saturday.

So, with some long-term uncertainty setting in on the depth chart behind starter Baker Mayfield, Rhule was asked an interesting (but unsurprising) question—will the team look into signing Cam Newton?

“Um, Scott [Fitterer] and I will talk about that,” he said with a somewhat incredulous look. “Obviously, Cam would have to weigh in on that. There’d be a lot of things that we’d have to look at. You guys know my feelings on Cam. My time with him was fantastic. But probably too early right now to say much about that.”

Newton, obviously, remains a free agent following his largely disappointing return to the franchise last season. The former AP Most Valuable Player completed 54.8 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, five interceptions and five rushing touchdowns over eight appearances.

Like Rhule stated, it’s far too early to make a determination like that moving forward. But with Darnold’s early prognosis, Matt Corral’s season-ending injury and PJ Walker’s severely underwhelming play—maybe another reunion could be in the cards . . .

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Sam Darnold suffers ugly left ankle injury vs Bills, carted off field

In what has been a Murphy’s Law NFL career, Sam Darnold caught another very bad break in the Panthers’ final preseason game on Friday night.

Sam Darnold was not going to be a starter in the NFL this season. Baker Mayfield was always going to start as soon as he came to Charlotte and the Carolina Panthers. However, there are worse things to be in life than a backup NFL quarterback. The money is good. The physical toll on a body is a lot lower. The chance to learn about the game and eventually latch onto another NFL organization is very real for a player who is still relatively young, as Darnold is.

The one thing every football player hopes to avoid: an ugly injury.

Darnold was bitten by the injury bug on Friday night in the Panthers’ preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

Darnold suffered what appeared to be an ugly left ankle injury against the Bills, the latest piece of miserable luck for a young man who has been saddled by bad teams, bad offensive lines, and generally bad situations in his NFL journey.

Along with Josh Allen, we wish Sam Darnold well in his recovery and hope the severity of the injury is not extensive.

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Sam Darnold carted off after scary ankle injury

Sam Darnold suffered an ankle injury against the Buffalo Bills and was carted off the field.

Injuries are mounting in the Carolina Panthers’ final preseason game. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown left the game with an oblique injury, and kicker Zane Gonzalez was carted off after injuring his groin while warming up on the sideline. Then there is backup quarterback Sam Darnold, who was taken off the field on a cart after suffering a lower-body injury.

Darnold was sliding to his right while being pressured, trying to get off a throw before taking a sack. He managed to get the ball out of his hands, but when falling to the turf with a defender on him, his left ankle twisted awkwardly:

Darnold was taken off the field on a cart, and quickly ruled out with an ankle injury:

Darnold is not the only Carolina quarterback to suffer an injury in recent weeks. Rookie passer Matt Corral suffered a Lisfranc injury in Carolina’s second preseason game, and is out for the season.

If Darnold has suffered a severe injury, that could leave the Panthers with Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker as their two healthy quarterbacks for the start of the season.