Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey may not play preseason finale vs. Steelers

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Head coach Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers probably didn’t enjoy having their superstar running back for all of three games last season. So they’re doing the closest thing they can to cocooning him in bubble wrap until the regular season starts.

On Monday, Rhule told reporters that Christian McCaffrey will get limited snaps, if any snaps at all, when the team closes out their string of exhibition play against the Pittsburgh Steelers at week’s end. The two-time All-Pro has yet to play a down this preseason.

“Christian will be very, very limited, as he has been pretty much every preseason,” the second-year coach said of how he plans to use (or not use) his premier weapon on Friday. “He’s gonna take a lot of hits during the season, more than anyone else out there on the field. So we’ll save those hits for the season for Christian.”

McCaffrey missed 13 games in 2020 due to various injuries. He sustained a high-ankle sprain in Week 2 as well as shoulder and thigh strains in Weeks 9 and 14, respectively.

The gamer that he is, McCaffrey would obviously love to eat up as much action as he can. But he understands and embraces the long-term vision of keeping himself rested for the games that actually count.

“I think just make people miss and try not to get tackled, that’s probably the best way you can limit hits,” he said cheekily. “You always gotta stayed physically prepared, mentally prepared, emotionally prepared. If you kinda check those boxes everyday and kinda fall in love with your routine throughout the week, and just make it consistent. Some of that stuff, you just be proactive with it.”