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CHARLOTTE, NC – The Carolina Panthers have “no intentions” at all about dealing with star player Christian McCaffrey, but left the door open for the Pro Bowl to return to being used more as a slot receiver on the way forward.
“There was a report back in November that we were actively trying to swap him, and I told him that was not true,” general manager Scott Fitterer said Monday about his exit interview with McCaffrey after the Panthers’ 5-12 season. . What I said to him was, ‘Hey, listen, I’m accepting any call. Call and make an offer you want. ‘
“‘It does not mean we do it. It does not mean we act for you.’ “I see Christian as a foundation on this team. We are a better team when he’s on the field. He’s one of the elite players in the NFL.”
However, injuries have plagued McCaffrey’s career since coach Matt Rhule was hired in 2020. He has only played in 10 out of 33 possible matches. He missed 10 out of 17 games last season with a pre-stretched hamstring in week 3 and a left ankle sprain he suffered in week 12.
Rhule said he and former offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who was fired in early December, talked a little before the season about using McCaffrey more as a slot receiver, but it never came to anything because the eighth election in 2017- the draft was damaged early.
“We started down that road, but unfortunately he was out in Game 3,” Rhule said. “For me, when you have a weapon like Christian McCaffrey, I’m looking for an offensive system that uses him and does not. For me, that’s what makes him one of the best players in football.
Rhule said his new offensive coordinator will have an impact on how McCaffrey is used. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Panthers are interested in Alabama offensive coordinator and former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, with former Washington head coach Jay Gruden and Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell among the candidates.
“Christian brings that versatility, so that’s one of the things when we talk to coordinators, we say, ‘How are you going to use him?’ ‘Rhule said.” That’s what I’m looking for. ”
McCaffrey lined up in 16th place out of 429 snaps in 2019 under then-coach Ron Rivera, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In his first season under Rhule and Brady in 2020, McCaffrey lined up there twice on 78 snaps.
He only lined up on the pitch once in 141 snaps this season. He lined up in the backfield 135 times in 2021, as opposed to wide receiver three times, Wildcat quarterback twice and slot eleven.
But Rhule made it clear that any thought of using McCaffrey more in the field had nothing to do with trying to protect him from injury.
“You put him in the crack to get a matchup,” Rhule said.
It also allows the Panthers to use running backs Chuba Hubbard and Ameer Abdullah more with McCaffrey on the field. Much of Brady’s attack was built around McCaffrey as a receiver out of the backfield.
“I want a diverse offense where it is not run through just one person,” Rhule said.
When McCaffrey was asked if it would benefit him healthily to play more slot, he said dead panned: “No.”
But McCaffrey allowed the opportunity to “temper” his offseason preparation and ease into offseason training instead of being in tip-top shape when OTAs begin.
“Talking to guys around the league who’s been successful is in those first 12 weeks of the free season, they said just let yourself relax emotionally and mentally and physically,” said McCaffrey, who in 2019 became the third back in The NFL’s history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Be still active but relaxing.
“I’m a competitor and I will always show up ready to go in OTAs and trained for OTAs if that makes sense and I tried to show up at full speed ready to roll.”
McCaffrey’s competitive nature and unique talent are two more reasons why Fitterer and Rhule do not want to swap their star, the highest paid back in the league at $ 16 million a year.
“I fully expect Christian to be here next year,” Rhule said. “I look forward to Christian coming back and getting healthier than ever before.”