CHARLOTTE – The last time Christian McCaffrey played in a game, he totaled 227 yards and two touchdowns in Stanford's blowout win over Rice on Thanksgiving weekend.
So as excited as Panthers fans were to see their first-round pick debut Wednesday night, no one was as hyped up as McCaffrey.
"It was mostly excitement," he said when asked if he felt any nerves ahead of Carolina's preseason opener against the Texans. "You've been away from playing against another team for so long that I was extremely excited.
"You get so lost in the grind sometimes that you forget football is the best thing in the world. It was good to get out there and finally play again. Learn from it, get all the jitters out and now it's time to roll."
In total, McCaffrey played four series against the Texans, gaining 33 yards on seven carries. The Panthers, obviously keeping their offense mostly vanilla in the preseason, didn't shift him around much and sent just one pass his way. That screen from Joe Webb was batted down at the line.
McCaffrey took handoffs in both power and zone run schemes, with his biggest gainer coming on a counter out of the shotgun. Using tight end Ed Dickson as a lead blocker, McCaffrey worked his way 12 yards before he was tripped up. When he got up, he angrily slapped at the ball, knowing he was a flailing Dickson cleat away from breaking off a much bigger play.
"You kind of felt that he just might pop one," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's exciting. He's a great change-up to what we want to do with Jonathan (Stewart), and I think he's going to open up some things for everybody."
But McCaffrey would've preferred to take advantage of what opened up in front of him Wednesday night. Such is life as a perfectionist.
"I felt like I could've made one more cut maybe and would've broken one. But it is what it is," McCaffrey said. "Sometimes they don't fall your way, but I had a blast out there playing."
Watch: Every McCaffrey touch vs. Texans