The Carolina Panthers will once again be without running back Christian McCaffrey on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury. This will mark the third straight game that McCaffrey has missed this season and the 16th game he's missed over the past two seasons.
The big concern with paying running backs in the NFL is that they're not built to last. They take the most beating out of any player on the field on any given Sunday which is why you don't see very many guys have success beyond about a four to five year window.
For a while, it seemed as if that type of thinking did not apply to McCaffrey. He only missed one game in college at Stanford and never missed a single game in his NFL career until year four. He has been known to take tremendous care of his body and takes pride in doing so.
The Panthers don't view McCaffrey as just a running back. Thye view him as a running back, wide receiver, pass protector, and a dude that can just make a ton of plays in a variety of ways. McCaffrey's versatility is what makes him so valuable which is why the Panthers were not hesitant when signing him to a four-year, $62 million contract extension.
Since signing that contract, everything has seemingly gone south as McCaffrey has appeared in just six of the team's 22 games. Although this hamstring injury doesn't seem to be something that will keep him sidelined for much longer, at some point you have to wonder if it's best to move on from him. If I were GM Scott Fitterer, I would play it out as long as I could and see what type of availability he has moving forward. Last year could end up being an anomaly where he missed nearly the entire season. And maybe this hamstring is the only "serious" injury that will cause him to be sidelined for an extended period of time before going back to the healthy Christian McCaffrey we saw the first three years of his career.
No, the Panthers should not trade McCaffrey nor do they need to move off of him at this given moment. But if 22 does have a hard time staying on the field this year and next, then it might be time to consider all options. The best ability is your availability.
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