Panthers QB Sam Darnold Set To Miss 7 Weeks With Injury

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is expected to miss several weeks after tests revealed he has an incomplete scapula fracture in his throwing shoulder.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that he suffered a crack of the shoulder scapula in his throwing arm. The injury is believed to have occurred in Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the New England Patriots.

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule told reporters Wednesday that Darnold will end up on IR with a 4-6 week timeline on his recovery. 

PJ Walker is the No. 2 QB behind Darnold on Carolina’s depth chart. Walker, who played for Rhule at Temple and starred in the XFL before signing with Carolina last year, will get his second NFL start on Sunday when the Panthers (4-5) play at the Arizona Cardinals (8-1).

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Walker has started one game in his career – a 20-0 Panthers victory over Detroit last year in Week 11 – in which he completed 24 of 34 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 77.8 passer rating. 

“P.J. is here because I believe in him,” said Rhule, saying his faith in Walker has nothing to do with coaching him in college.

Darnold entered concussion protocol after absorbing a big hit during a Week 8 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. 

An MRI this week revealed Darnold had an incomplete fracture of the scapula on his right (throwing) shoulder. Rhule said he believes it happened in the second quarter.

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There is one play in which Darnold took a forearm to the scapula area from Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy early on the second quarter that could be the source of the injury.

Neither Rhule nor Darnold indicated on Sunday the shoulder was an issue in the quarterback’s performance in the loss. Rhule reiterated that on Monday.

Darnold went 16-for-33 in that game with 172 yards, three interceptions and zero touchdowns.

Cameras caught teammate Robby Anderson visibly upset and shouting at Darnold.

“When I looked at him in the game, I didn’t see a bunch of poorly thrown balls,” Rhule said. “I just saw some decisions we would like to have back.”

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One of his interceptions, in the third quarter, was returned 88 yards for a touchdown.

“You look at the second half, he obviously was playing with something,” Rhule said Wednesday.

The Panthers on Tuesday signed quarterback Matt Barkley off the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad. Rhule said the team would continue to explore all options at the position with the belief Darnold will be back in four to six weeks.

Asked if Carolina would consider bringing back Cam Newton, the top pick of the 2011 NFL draft who played with the Panthers through the 2019 season, Rhule said he didn’t want to discuss “hypotheticals.”

After a 3-0 start, the Panthers have lost five of their last six, including a 24-6 defeat to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

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Carolina acquired Darnold in April from the New York Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and second-and fourth-round picks in 2022.

They later shipped Teddy Bridgewater to Denver, lining Darnold up to earn his place as the franchise quarterback.

Darnold has started all nine games for Carolina in 2021 and has thrown for 1,986 yards, seven touchdowns and a league-high 11 interceptions with a 59.5 percent completion rate.

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