CHARLOTTE – The Panthers on Tuesday designated running back Christian McCaffrey to return from the reserve/injured list. The move means he can begin practicing, and the team now has 21 days to put him back on the active roster.
McCaffrey, who hasn't played since he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2, showed up to Tuesday's practice in a red, non-contact jersey and baseball cap. But he soon changed into a black jersey and helmet during the portion of practice open to the media.
"I think he was excited and exhilarated to be out there today, to be out there with his teammates, to have a chance to practice," head coach Matt Rhule said. "I know he wants to play, but I also know he's a process guy and understands that we can't shortcut the process."
Designating McCaffrey to return increases the possibility he could face the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. But if the Panthers decide that turnaround is too tight, he could instead return for next week's trip to Kansas City.
"I'm hopeful," Rhule said when asked if he thought McCaffrey could play as soon as Thursday. "I'll have to see how he responds to getting back out there.
"It won't be a minute too early. We'll be smart."
In his two games this season, McCaffrey recorded 223 yards from scrimmage and four rushing touchdowns.
Running back Mike Davis has started the last five games in McCaffrey's absence, recording 517 yards from scrimmage with four total touchdowns.
View photos from Tuesday's practice as Carolina prepares to face the Falcons on Thursday Night Football.