The hits just keep on coming for the Carolina Panthers running backs, as No. 2 back Jonathan Stewart is suffering from another nagging injury and is now expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Although Stewart is the more important player to the Panthers, the season-ending knee injury to rookie back Tyler Gaffney is much more devastating. Per the Associated Press’s Steve Reed, the lone saving grace here for Gaffney is that Panthers head coach Ron Rivers stated Gaffney did not suffer any damage to his ACL, but the Stanford product is obviously still hitting the injured reserve.
It’s a tough blow for Gaffney, and it makes his rookie season a year of rehab and learning the playbook, so at least it will be a redshirt season in that sense. Still, he was expected to get some carries in as a late-round pick and could have emerged as a legitimate force in the Panthers backfield in Stewart’s absence. He isn’t explosive or agile, but he has solid vision, decent one-cutting ability, sub-4.5 wheels, and plenty of power. Gaffney was one of the most productive running backs in college football last year, and he was a huge key to the Cardinal’s success.
The 23-year-old will undergo surgery on a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee after being injured on the first play of Friday’s practice, and we can only wish him well in a full and speed recovery. That shouldn’t be any issue, though, because this is a less severe injury than an ACL tear. In the meantime, the Panthers will need to sign a running back to replenish the lost depth, and the focus will now be on another former Pac-12 star RB in Kenjon Barner, who is locked in as the team’s unquestioned No. 2 back with Stewart temporarily injured and Gaffney done for the year.