Matt Rhule: Sam Darnold out 4-6 weeks with shoulder injury, likely headed to IR

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Panthers head coach Matt Rhule confirmed the reporting that quarterback Sam Darnold is out for multiple weeks with a shoulder injury. But Rhule noted that he doesn’t think the injury will be season-ending.

In his Wednesday press conference, Rhule said that Darnold was experiencing a different kind of pain following the loss to the Patriots than his previous shoulder injury. But Rhule was unsure of exactly when the injury occurred.

“I think [Darnold] knows that this is in his best interest to take care of this right now,” Rhule said in his press conference. “I think we all see that Sam’s a really tough guy. He’s willing to play through anything. But it’s an incomplete fracture, so we think we caught it where we can manage it in four to six weeks and we can get him back. Obviously, he’d love to play, but player’s health comes first.”

While Darnold is out, the Panthers are planning to start P.J. Walker at quarterback. They also signed Matt Barkley off of Buffalo’s practice squad to serve as the backup QB.

Rhule mentioned that the Panthers would “obviously explore any and all options,” but declined to discuss the idea of bringing free agent Cam Newton back to the franchise.

“I won’t get into any hypotheticals, I’ll probably just talk about the guys on the roster,” Rhule said. “But our job is to try to win, so we’re going to evaluate and talk to whatever we think is possibly out there. But in terms of specific comments, I’d just talk about our team.”

After starting 3-0, the Panthers are now 4-5. Darnold started out hot, but now ranks 31st of 33 qualified players with a 71.4 passer rating. Only rookies Justin Fields and Zach Wilson are worse. Darnold is also tied for the league lead with 11 interceptions.

Walker may not be the solution at quarterback either, but Carolina will at least have an opportunity to see what someone else can do piloting the offense for the next several weeks.