CHARLOTTE – The Panthers will be without running back Christian McCaffrey this week, but they did get enough other key parts back Friday, which should help after a strange week of practice.
McCaffrey did not practice Friday and was listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Broncos because of a quad strain suffered in practice Wednesday.
He's missed nine of the previous 12 games this season with shoulder and ankle problems but was close to a return this week before the thigh injury popped up.
"He's doubtful," Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. "We do not expect him to play."
Rhule said he understands that McCaffrey is frustrated at the likelihood of missing the game against his hometown team, for whom his father Ed played and won two Super Bowls with.
"I know how much Christian wants to play," Rhule said. "I know how much he wants to be out there. As I've told him, and as I've told any player who gets hurt, these things happen, and everything happens for a reason. Take it, deal with it, and move on with it, but nothing good comes from getting frustrated. Nothing good comes from emotion. Just deal with it as it comes.
"I'm sure for Christian, growing up as a young kid watching the Denver Broncos and watching his dad, I'm sure he wants to play in this game, but it just wasn't meant to be. He's done everything he could possibly do, and I respect the heck out of Christian, and he'll be out there cheering on his teammates."
The Panthers did get wide receiver Curtis Samuel, linebacker Shaq Thompson, and defensive tackle Derrick Brown back Friday, after they were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Rhule said he expects all three to play, which helps with depth concerns that were evident this week.
That leaves just wide receiver DJ Moore and defensive tackle Zach Kerr on the reserve/COVID-19 list among players on the active roster.
Safety Tre Boston was missing Friday with a sore hamstring and is listed as questionable. Cornerback Rasul Douglas returned after missing the previous two days for non-injury reasons. Offensive lineman Dennis Daley (concussion) and Marquis Haynes (illness) remained out of practice, with Daley listed as out and Haynes questionable for Sunday.
You can read the final injury report here and see game statuses below:
View photos from Friday's practice as the Panthers had a number of starters return from the reserve/COVID-19 list.