CHARLOTTE – After wrapping up his season with more than 400 touches and nearly 2,400 scrimmage yards while playing over 1,000 snaps — at least 100 more than any other running back — you'd think Christian McCaffrey would be left feeling bruised and battered. But as we learned during his incredible 2019 campaign, McCaffrey isn't normal.
"Body feels good," he said after Sunday's season finale against the Saints. "You've always got to count your blessings when you get through a season healthy. I feel good. Body's fine. No issues."
While the Panthers closed out the year with an eighth straight loss, McCaffrey was once again their highlight reel. He gained just 26 yards on nine carries, but he scored Carolina's lone touchdown and joined an exclusive club. Only three players have hit 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a single season: Roger Craig, Marshall Faulk, and now, McCaffrey.
"Every year I write down little goals and that was one of them," said McCaffrey, who caught seven passes for 72 yards after needing 67 to hit 1,000. "It's cool when you accomplish one of the goals you write down, but obviously, I can't reiterate this enough, but the most important statistic is winning."
Which is exactly what you'd expect him to say. But the Panthers' disappointing season and McCaffrey's incredible year don't have to be mutually exclusive. Just take a look at some of what he did:
- 287 carries
- 1,387 rushing yards
- 116 receptions
- 1,005 receiving yards
- 19 total touchdowns
Those 2,392 scrimmage yards were the third-most in NFL history. The 116 catches, the most ever by a running back (McCaffrey broke his own record from last year). And perhaps most remarkable of all, he didn't lose a single fumble on those 403 touches, the most since Hall of Famer Curtis Martin went 412 touches in 2004 without losing a fumble.
"You always have to look for something to look on and build as a positive, and that's certainly one of them," linebacker Luke Kuechly said of McCaffrey's season. "Not a lot of people are able to do what he does. Not a lot of people are able to play the amount of snaps he does at that position. He's a special player.
"I know the season didn't go obviously the way we wanted it to. You can still take away from the fact that Christian had a special year, and special year like that always deserve to be recognized."
Still, McCaffrey is much like Kuechly in that asking them to celebrate individual success is like pulling teeth.
"The most important stat is winning and we didn't get that done this year," McCaffrey said. "The individual statistics, they're great and cool and stuff you can look back on be proud of yourself, but we would love to get this thing fixed and fixed quick.
"It takes a village and football is not easy. It's not a one-man show and it never has been. You look at some of the best teams in the world and they play great team football."
So therein lies one of the Panthers' biggest challenges as they head into what will be their most eventful offseason in nearly a decade. McCaffrey is a special talent, but that alone can only take them so far. Now it's up to a new head coach and front office personnel to build around him. And while they do that, McCaffrey may as well get the rest he doesn't really need.
"Right now, (it's) decompression time," he said. "Get off my feet and sulk, if you want to call it that. Get some family time. And when it's time to get back after it, we're going to do so pretty heavy."