CHARLOTTE — The Panthers are holding out hope that running back Christian McCaffrey will be back on the field sooner rather than later.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that McCaffrey would not be placed on injured reserve, after the hamstring strain that forced him to leave last week's game against the Texans.
"Depending on how he feels and how healthy he is," Rhule said of a potential timeframe for a return. "Obviously, if he goes on IR he's out for a minimum of three games. So we feel like there's hope that he'll be back before then, or at least after three heading into the fourth."
Rookie Chuba Hubbard is expected to start in the interim, and they also have Royce Freeman on the active roster at the moment.
Bringing Rodney Smith (who played seven games for them last year) up from the practice squad would be another possibility if they needed reinforcements, though they're looking at some external options.
— Horn and McCaffrey aren't the only injuries impacting the Panthers this week.
Rhule said that defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos was "doubtful" to play Sunday against the Cowboys, and that veteran safety Juston Burris would be "back in a couple weeks" after a groin injury last Thursday.
Gross-Matos missed last week's game after injuring his ankle against the Saints.
Without Horn, Burris, and Myles Hartsfield (IR), three of the five defensive backs the Panthers used in nickel situations in the opener are already absent. That leaves cornerback Donte Jackson and safety Jeremy Chinn standing after three weeks.
— Chinn said he planned to set up shop in front of his television tonight for a "two-for-one," since Monday Night Football features a pair of future opponents.
After this week's trip to Dallas, the Panthers host the Eagles in Week 5.
When the Panthers watch film, they rely on the high end-zone angle "All-22" view, which is drastically different than the "TV copy."
Because casual viewers don't always enjoy the granular level of detail in terms of coverage and protection that an NFL safety might, it's a much tighter shot, generally focused on where the ball is going.
Asked if that made it frustrating to sit at home, Chinn laughed.
"A little bit," he said. "Nah, I wouldn't say frustrating; I know what I'm getting myself into. It's watching a regular football game. We've got the All-22 copy too, so if there's something I need to see, I can watch that as well.
"A lot of times I'll be watching where the ball's not even at, things that a regular spectator wouldn't even be looking at. They don't get a lot of that on camera most of the time."
Chinn said he watches televised games "every now and then," but Sunday was the first time he's sat and watched games in a long time.
View the best photos from Carolina's 24-9 win over Houston in Week 3.