Christian McCaffrey Out for the Year

Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 12 - The NFL retained last season's relaxed injured reserve rules for 2021, meaning that any player who is placed on injured reserve after the final roster cutdown day is eligible to return to practice after missing three weeks. As a result, we will continue to distinguish between players who will be placed on injured reserve (IR) and players who will likely miss the entire remainder of the season (Season).

Panthers Halfback Christian McCaffrey—Ankle (Season)

Star Panthers halfback Christian McCaffrey left Sunday's defeat against the Dolphins with an ankle injury and, following MRI scans today, the team has now placed him on injured reserve. As this is the second time he has been placed on injured reserve this year, he will not be eligible to return, so his season is over. That means after a massively productive first three seasons, McCaffrey has now made just 10 appearances in the past two years. Those appearances remain hugely productive—his average of 5.8 yards per touch this year was only marginally below his peak seasons of 2018 and 2019, and he ranks second in receiving DYAR by running backs—but ankle injuries in particular have now cost him substantial portions of two straight years.

Rookie Chuba Hubbard was productive during McCaffrey's earlier absence with a hamstring injury, and will presumably reclaim the starting role.

Vikings Halfback Dalvin Cook—Shoulder

Vikings star halfback Dalvin Cook will miss time after dislocating his shoulder and tearing his labrum against the 49ers. Somehow, that injury is not considered severe enough to end his season, but he will likely miss significant time. We don't have enough position specific data for halfbacks, but around 50% of all players with dislocated shoulders (including subluxations) miss at least four games. Alexander Mattison had two 100-yard rushing games in relief of Cook earlier in the year, and Mattison will ascend to the starting role again now.

Linebacker Anthony Barr injured his hamstring. Around two in three hamstring injuries to linebackers result in missed time, but only one in four results in an absence longer than two games.

Browns Offensive Tackle Jack Conklin—Knee (Season)

Reports today indicate that Browns offensive tackle Jack Conklin tore the patellar tendon in his knee against the Ravens, a major injury that not only ends his season, but places his availability for the start of the 2022 season in doubt. If confirmed, Conklin's injury will require surgery and a grueling rehab that all but guarantees he will miss most of the team's offseason program, and he is likely to begin 2022 on the Reserve (PUP) list. Conklin has experienced that once already during his six-year career, as he tore his ACL against the Patriots during the 2017 postseason and missed the beginning of the 2018 regular season. As he did then, he should be able to return partway through the season. Blake Hance replaced Conklin against the Ravens and will likely step in as the starter for the rest of the year.

Jaguars Tight End Dan Arnold—Knee (IR)

Jaguars tight end Dan Arnold sprained his MCL against the Falcons and reports indicate that he will miss around four to six weeks. This roughly matches our data: 55% of tight ends with MCL sprains miss at least three weeks, and most miss closer to seven games. With only seven games left, that may be enough to end his season. The team is likely to place Arnold on injured reserve this week, with Jacob Hollister reclaiming the starting role in the continued absence of James O'Shaughnessy.


The following players left their respective games with concussion symptoms and enter the league protocol:

  • Buccaneers return specialist Jaelon Darden
  • Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth

Based on our current data, a growing majority of players now miss at least one game following a diagnosed concussion, but around 80% return within two weeks.

Other Injuries

49ers receiver Deebo Samuel injured his groin against the Vikings and is expected to miss time, but the injury is unlikely to be major: only around 20% of groin injuries to receivers cause an absence of more than two games. The prognosis is similar for Fred Warner: though hamstring injuries to linebackers do cause missed time more often than groin injuries to receivers, again only around 25% of players miss more than two games. Backup halfback Trey Sermon injured his ankle, and early indications are that Sermon is likely to miss more time than Samuel. That would make him a candidate for injured reserve. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw returned following core muscle surgery on a groin injury he suffered in Week 1, then left the game early, again with a groin injury. If that is an aggravation of the previous injury, it may mean another extended absence from the lineup, but no news to that effect is yet public.

Bengals tackle Riley Reiff and center Trey Hopkins both left Sunday's blowout win over the Steelers with injuries, but either player could have returned to the game if required and neither is expected to miss time.

Broncos guard Dalton Risner aggravated his existing back injury against the Chargers, but he is considered "more day-to-day than week-to-week" by head coach Vic Fangio. Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson injured his knee, with some initial reports also indicating an ankle injury. That suggests a high-ankle or MCL mechanism, which in the case of a low-grade sprain usually means an absence of two to four weeks for offensive linemen. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater injured his right leg but was able to return to the game.

Buccaneers star linebacker Devin White injured his hip against the Colts. Though he was able to return to the game, he was visibly impaired in the second half. He has not yet been ruled out for Week 13 against the Falcons, but he is likely to miss portions of practice this week in an effort to have him healthy. Cornerback Jamel Dean avoided major injury, but his status for Week 13 is not yet clear. Guard Aaron Stinnie is unlikely to play, and will probably be replaced in the lineup by Nick Leverett.

Eagles guard Jack Driscoll is expected to miss a few weeks with the ankle injury he suffered against the Giants, which suggests that the injury is a high-ankle sprain. Those typically result in an absence of at least two weeks for offensive linemen, with around half of players missing three weeks or longer.

Giants cornerback Adoree' Jackson injured his quad against the Eagles and did not return. Most thigh or quad injuries to defensive backs do not cause missed time, and around 80% of players are back within a week or two. Cornerback Darnay Holmes is likely to miss a week or two with a rib injury. Of the small portion of defensive backs who miss time with rib injuries, around half return within two weeks.

Jets linebacker Quincy Williams injured his calf. Most calf injuries to linebackers do not cause any missed games, and only around 15% cause an absence of more than two games. Defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins injured his knee.

Packers receiver Randall Cobb injured his groin against the Rams. Most groin injuries to receivers do not cause missed games, and only 20% cause a multiple-game absence.

Rams receiver J.J. Koski injured his hamstring against the Packers. Around half of hamstring injuries to receivers cause missed time, and around one in four causes an absence of more than two games.

Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane injured his knee and is still being evaluated, per head coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin usually provides injury updates at his midweek media conference.

Texans defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker injured his hamstring against the Jets. Around 65% of hamstring injuries to linebackers cause missed games, but only 25% cause an absence longer than two games.

Titans backups Tommy Hudson and Monty Rice were hurt against the Patriots, but no further news is yet public for either player.


7 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2021, 5:51pm

#5 by DIVISION // Nov 30, 2021 - 3:48pm

There comes a point when a professional athlete must ask whether his body can take the pounding of the NFL meat-grinder anymore.

That time has come for McCaffery.

The NFL is a young man's game, unless you're Tom Brady.


Points: 0

#6 by Independent George // Dec 01, 2021 - 3:27pm

He's only 25! Life is really tough for NFL running backs. At least he and Derrick Henry both got their second contracts.

Points: 0

#7 by DIVISION // Dec 01, 2021 - 5:51pm

If you consider a percentage of hits to be the equivalent of being in a car crash, playing RB in the NFL is similar to being a soldier in an Army artillery unit if we look at the number of Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Guys like Frank Gore are outliers.  You almost have to have great genetics to survive that position for more than 4 years.


Points: 0

#3 by RickD // Nov 30, 2021 - 10:14am

I hate that we've lost so many of the top RBs this season to injury: Henry, CMC, and Cook most notably.  Jonathan Taylor seems to be the last man standing at that position.  

Points: 0

#4 by ImNewAroundThe… // Nov 30, 2021 - 10:49am


Points: 0

#2 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 30, 2021 - 8:26am

Were there any significant Thanksgiving injuries other than Tre White? I'm afraid that one has clouded my memory.

I guess the other question is: Will Carolina ever stop building an offense than relies on McCaffery, then sucks when he's out? He's obviously a great talent, but a great talent on IR isn't especially useful...

Points: 0

#1 by andrew // Nov 30, 2021 - 8:14am

There was a report that Dalvin Cook had already been playing with a torn labrum in his other shoulder.   In theory he does need arms.

Then later Zimmer claimed his labrum was not torn and he said Cook was "day to day".   I think that is likely coachspeak for "maybe we can get opponents to prepare for player X even though there is zero chance of him playing", e.g. last year when he kept doing the same thing for Hunter before he was shelved foe the year.

Points: 0

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