Carolina Panthers activate RB Christian McCaffrey; QB Sam Darnold cleared from concussion protocol

Mina Kimes explains why she picked the Patriots to defeat the Panthers in Week 9. (0:45).
CHARLOTTE (N.C.) -- On Saturday, the Carolina Panthers activated running back Christian McCaffrey, who was on injured reserve. He is now eligible to play in Sunday's home match against New England Patriots.

Additionally, quarterback Sam Darnold was released from the concussion protocol. However, he is still dealing with a shoulder injury which will keep him out of the 1 p.m. ET game. ET game.

Coach Matt Rhule stated Friday that Darnold could possibly back up P.J. Walker has been taking most of the first-team reps during practice. Darnold may not be able to throw deep because of concerns about his shoulder strength.

McCaffrey has been activated, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will be playing. McCaffrey missed five games due to hamstring injuries. To make sure that there have not been setbacks, the staff will again evaluate McCaffrey on Sunday morning.

McCaffrey is likely to play if he plays. His pitch count would likely limit him to 30-40 snaps. Rhule hopes to keep rookie Chuba hubbard, Royce Freeman, and Ameer Abdullah in the mix. They were the ones who helped the Panthers rush a record 47 times for 203 yards at Atlanta last week.

Hubbard was McCaffrey's starter in McCaffrey’s absence. Rhule however stated that Abdullah added an "jolt" to the running game against Falcons.

Hubbard described Abdullah as "really twitchy and fast." "Can make a man miss in a telephone booth.

McCaffrey was hurt in the second quarter of Week 3's win at Houston. McCaffrey appeared to be ready to return two weeks later. However, after practicing four times in a two-week period, he was put on injured reserve.

Since Rhule's hire last year, he has missed 18 of his 24 games due to injury. With just seven minutes remaining in the 19-13 win against Atlanta, Darnold sustained both injuries on a first-down lap around the left side.

Rhule stated, "Our job is prepare for all contingencies. And expect the unexpected."

Walker will start if he starts. In the absence of Teddy Bridgewater, Walker threw for 258 yard and a touchdown last year in Detroit's 20-0 win.