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NFL News: Panthers QB Sam Darnold ‘not close’ to returning

Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Sam Darnold is eligible to come off injured reserve this week, but head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that Darnold is “not close” to returning from the high-ankle sprain he suffered in August.

Darnold was placed on IR on Sept. 1, with the team saying he was expected to miss four to six weeks. It’s looking to be the higher end of that estimate.

The Panthers fell to 1-3 on Sunday behind an ineffective Baker Mayfield, cranking up the rumor mill about a quarterback change. Rhule declined to speculate after the game but confirmed Monday that Mayfield will continue to be under center.

“I think Baker is our quarterback,” Rhule said Monday.

PJ Walker would be the team’s only other option at this point.

“We just need Baker to settle down and play within the scheme,” Rhule added. “That is something he believes in, we all believe in.”

Darnold, 25, was injured in the team’s final preseason game when Buffalo Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer rolled over his left foot. Darnold was carted off the field.

Mayfield, 27, has completed a career-low 54.7 percent of his passes for a meager 747 yards, with four touchdowns against three interceptions in four games as the starter.

Darnold was 4-7 as the Panthers’ starter in 2021.

Rhule also said wideout Laviska Shenault injured his other hamstring during Sunday’s game. Shenault was on the injury report last week with a hamstring issue. Shenault played just four snaps on offense Sunday against Arizona Cardinals.

“We had a lot of plays for him. He actually pulled his other hamstring during the game,” Rhule said. “We thought he would be a difference maker for us in the game.”

Rhule did not provide an update on starting safety Jeremy Chinn’s hamstring injury. Chinn logged just six defensive snaps on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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