Christian McCaffrey Dismisses Longevity Concerns: 'That Stuff Is for the Birds'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 10, 2022

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey walks off the field after a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey dismissed concerns over the long-term durability of running backs following back-to-back injury-plagued seasons.

"That stuff is for the birds, stuff for Twitter," he told reporters Monday.

Since earning All-Pro honors in 2019, McCaffrey has appeared in 10 total games. Ankle and hamstring problems limited him to seven appearances this season.

Regarding the injuries that have kept him off the field, he said he's planning to alter his offseason regimen somewhat to potentially avoid a similar outcome in 2022:

Joe Person @josephperson

CMC says he'll take a more "tempered" approach to the first 12 weeks of the offseason. But points out he "had a couple 300-pound guys fall on his ankle" when he was on the ground at MIA. Says he'd welcome a drill to prevent that.

Through his first three years, the 2017 first-round pick had 5,443 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns. He proceeded to sign a four-year, $64 million extension with the Panthers.

While McCaffrey earned a major pay raise, investing a significant sum of money in a running back can be a bit perilous. 

The danger of a major injury is obvious when a player is regularly logging 300-plus touches per season. And even if a running back remains healthy, there's no guarantee he'll continue to perform at his peak.

Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL rushing twice within his first three seasons, which he parlayed into a six-year, $90 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

He ran for 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to the Pro Bowl in 2019 but totaled 1,981 yards and 16 scores across 2020 and 2021. The gap between Elliott and Tony Pollard (719 rushing yards and 5.5 yards per carry in 2021) doesn't seem to be all that high.

For the Panthers, there was at least some reason to believe McCaffrey's versatility could mitigate some of the risk. He had 100-plus receptions in 2018 and 2019.

Instead, Carolina is now at a point where The Athletic's Joseph Person is reporting the team "would listen to offers for McCaffrey."