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New England Patriots

Aug 21, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; A Carolina Panthers helmet is seen during the second half between the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers are facing a number of offensive personnel questions heading into Sunday’s game with the Patriots. Star running back Christian McCaffrey has been on IR, while starting quarterback Sam Darnold left last week’s win over the Falcons early after taking a big hit to the head.

Before Wednesday’s practice – the first of the week – the Panthers announced on social media that McCaffrey has been designated to return from IR. He was later spotted taking part in practice.

That’s not a guarantee McCaffrey will play on Sunday, but it’s the first step towards him being eligible. The team has until Saturday at 4 p.m. to activate him in order for him to play this week, with the overall window for activation three weeks long. McCaffrey hasn’t played since Week 3 due to a hamstring injury, and has already suffered one setback, so the Panthers may not want to rush him. The team is 3-0 when McCaffrey has played this season, and 1-4 when he sits.

Darnold was also spotted at the early portion of practice, after reportedly spending time in concussion protocol earlier this week. However, backup quarterback P.J. Walker led team drills according to Ellis Williams of the Charlotte Observer. Speaking with the media on Wednesday, Bill Belichick said his team is preparing for both quarterbacks.

The next update on both players will come Wednesday afternoon, when each team releases its first injury report of the week. That will also add come clarity to J.C. Jackson’s situation – the Patriots’ top cornerback was not spotted at practice on Wednesday.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.