HOUSTON -- Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey strained his hamstring injury during a two-yard run against the Houston Texans on Thursday night at NRG Stadium - an injury to watch for the entire league, and especially for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Pro Bowl running back got hurt while delivering a stiff-arm to Texans linebacker Joe Thomas, engaging in a bit of a hop as his leg appeared to seize up on him. He immediately went to the blue medical tent on the sideline.
McCaffrey had seven carries for 31 yards and two catches for 9 yards during the Panthers' 24-9 win. ... and apparently will not heal in time for Carolina's next game, in Week 4 at Dallas.
Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, McCaffrey is expected to miss a few weeks with his hamstring injury.
Carolina is now 3-0. The Cowboys are 1-1, with immediate concerns about "Monday Night Football'' and a visit from the Philadelphia Eagles.
But then? The McCaffrey “Christian strained his hamstring," Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. "I don't the severity level of it yet, to be quite honest with you, but the minute it happened, they said he's out for the game. I just saw him in there and he's moving around, but obviously, we're going to have to wait on an MRI to see what the severity is. I just think he pulled it."
McCaffrey rushed for 72 yards on 24 carries and darted out of the backfield for five receptions for 65 yards during a win over the New Orleans Saints.
McCaffrey entered Thursday leading the NFL with 324 yards from scrimmage and ranks sixth with 170 rushing yards on 45 carries and 10th in catches with 14 for 154 yards. He’s currently on pace for 2,754 yards of total offense and became the third player in NFL history in 2019 to have 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
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“He's one of the best players in our league, can do it all,” Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said days before kickoff. “Of course, he's tough duty. As a receiver when he's catching the football, whether out of the backfield, splitting him out as a wide receiver, they do a great job of putting him in different spots getting the ball to him.
“But he's a running back and, of course, he can make you miss in the open field, run in between the tackles. I'm telling you all the things he does well, but how do you stop a guy? Well, it's still going to go back to first off being sound and disciplined. You can't make a mistake, you have to have somebody in every gap, gang tackle, pursue to the football, all of those things gives you the best chance to slow him down a little bit. Not many people are going to stop him completely.”
McCaffrey played 71 percent of the Panthers’ snaps against the Saints and had 29 touches. He missed 13 games last season due to shoulder, ankle and quadriceps injuries.
When healthy, McCaffrey is a prolific contributor. He had 2,392 all-purpose yards in 2019.
For his career, McCaffrey has 3,315 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns, 334 catches for 2,826 yards and 16 touchdowns for 6,141 yards of total offense.
Leaning on quarterback Sam Darnold, who passed for 304 yards and rushed for two touchdowns, the Panthers managed to win without one of the top offensive players in the NFL.
Next up for Carolina: A Week 4 visit to the Dallas Cowboys - a visit, it seems, that will not include the availability of arguably the Panthers’ best player.