Report: Panthers QB Sam Darnold not close to returning

Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Sam Darnold is eligible to come off injured reserve this week, however ESPN reported Monday that it’s “going to be a while” before he can return from the high-ankle sprain he suffered in August.

Darnold was placed on IR on Sept. 1, with the team saying he was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks. It’s looking to be the higher end of that estimate, at least, per the report.

The Panthers fell to 1-3 on Sunday behind an ineffective Baker Mayfield, cranking up the rumor mill about a quarterback change. Panthers coach Matt Rhule declined to speculate on that.

“I don’t have any thoughts on anything moving forward yet,” Rhule said Sunday. “I don’t know anything in terms of anybody health wise so I can’t make any comments on that. I think for me right now, obviously, we are going to go back. We are going to watch the tape. We are going to try to get these things corrected.”

Darnold, 25, was injured in the team’s final preseason game when Buffalo Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer rolled over his left foot. He was carted off the field.

Mayfield, 27, has completed 54.7 percent of his passes for a meager 747 yards, with four touchdowns against three interceptions in four games as the starter.

Darnold was 4-7 as the Panthers’ starter in 2021.