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Christian McCaffrey feels "really good"

Christian McCaffrey

CHARLOTTE — Christian McCaffrey likes the way he feels right now.

He's not as fond of Thursday as a night to play football.

McCaffrey talked to reporters briefly Thursday afternoon, his first comments since the hamstring strain in Houston two weeks ago that kept him out of the lineup last week.

He's practiced on a limited basis the last two days.

Asked if he thought he had a chance to play this week against the Eagles, he replied: "Yeah, definitely. We'll take it to Sunday and see how it goes from there. But I feel really good."

The Panthers have tried to increase his workload gradually as he's progressed, and head coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday he'd only play his star running back if he was 100 percent.

As to how he'd prove that, McCaffrey said: "Just honest conversations, and me going out there and practicing."

McCaffrey said his limited work was "obviously precautionary, but I feel good."

Most of his answers were clipped, and he didn't expound on a lot. He walked in and replied, "Feel great," when asked about his condition. He said he didn't know if it was related to the cramping he experienced the previous week against the Saints, and that he's no more cautious now after he missed 13 games last year with a collection of injuries.

"Nah. No," he said. "I'll play full speed all the time."

But when he was asked about the initial injury against the Texans, he had more to say, after mentioning he thought the short week "definitely" was a factor.

"It's extremely frustrating," he began. "I don't prefer Thursday night games. You go through a lot in a football game. And you really get two days to recover, and one of those days is a travel day. You get two days to recover; you get on a plane, you go to a hotel, you're playing a football game. It's tough, but it is what it is.

"It's part of the game, but obviously frustrating."

He used that word a lot, including when asked whether he thought Thursday games should be a thing.

"I don't know, if you ask me, I would definitely say, and I think I'm probably not alone in this, I would argue against them," he said. "I understand. It's part of the game. I could sit here and complain, and I'm not complaining. But it is frustrating sometimes when you feel like something could be avoided with a little more rest.

"I'm sure if I would have gotten through that game 100 percent, I wouldn't have said anything about it. that's just me and my personal views."

Having him back also provides a lift to the team, as they come off their first loss of the year. It comes the same week as the team trading for former NFL defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore, but Gilmore is still two weeks from being able to play.

The idea of having McCaffrey available sooner is obviously something they'd enjoy.

"Having Christian in the game plan at all times is just going to stress the other side out," wide receiver DJ Moore said. "To have him is always a plus."

Without him last week, the Panthers used rookie Chuba Hubbard, Royce Freeman, and practice squad call-up Rodney Smith against the Cowboys, and while they aren't McCaffrey (neither individually nor collectively), they weren't necessarily the problem.

"Any time you have the opportunity to have 22 on the field, that changes a lot of things," offensive coordinator Joe Brady said. "We'll see his status come game time. We're obviously preparing for everybody in the room, Royce, Chuba, and Rodney to carry the load like they did last week, and we're always confident that all the guys in the room can have success.

"Anytime 22 is out on the football field, he makes us better, but we'll see on Sunday."

View photos from Thursday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on Philadelphia on Sunday.

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