There's always a risk to playing in preseason, and Sam Darnold felt it Friday.
The Carolina Panthers quarterback, who was battling Baker Mayfield for the starting job until four days ago, exited a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills after going down with an ankle injury. The Panthers soon announced Darnold would not return.
Saturday morning, though, the Panthers got a bit of good news: Darnold would only miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He will still get a second opinion. This is huge considering the only other healthy quarterback on the roster is P.J. Walker after rookie Matt Corral landed on season-ending injured reserve with a foot injury last week.
The injury occurred late in the third quarter when defensive tackle C.J. Brewer tackled Darnold as he was releasing a pass. The replay showed Darnold's ankle appeared to bend the wrong way under Brewer's weight.
Darnold was eventually taken off the field via a cart.
Darnold's injury came after an impressive showing from Mayfield, who joined Carolina via a trade from the Cleveland Browns. Darnold, who started 11 games for the Panthers last year, finished 5-of-11 for 49 yards while Mayfield was 9-of-15 for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
With Darnold and Corral on the mend, the Panthers could look for another quarterback to fill out their room behind Mayfield and Walker. Obviously, the first player Panthers coach Matt Rhule was asked about was Cam Newton, who returned to the Panthers for a bit this past season after being released in 2020. Rhule wouldn't say Newton wasn't an option but added it was too early to decide if Carolina would pursue another reunion.
“[Panthers general manager] Scott [Fitterer] and I would have to talk about that, and obviously Cam would have to weigh in on that,” Rhule said after the game. “There’d be a lot of things we’d have to look at. You guys know my feeling on Cam. My time with him was fantastic, but it’s probably too early to say anything about that.”