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Panthers activate running back Christian McCaffrey from injured reserve ahead of Patriots game

Related: Patriots vs. Panthers Friday injury report: J.C. Jackson returns, 13 questionable for New England

Carolina Panthers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers have significantly bolstered their offense on the eve of their Week 9 matchup with the New England Patriots. As was announced by the club on Saturday, it has activated running back Christian McCaffrey from the injured reserve to its 53-man roster.

While not guaranteed to suit up against New England — the Panthers are reportedly “hopeful” that he will participate in the contest — his activation does give McCaffrey a chance to return to the field after having missed Carolina’s previous five games due to a hamstring injury. The team went 1-4 with McCaffrey out after having started the season 3-0 with him in the lineup.

One of the best dual-threat running backs in football, McCaffrey touched the football 68 times in those three games: he gained 201 yards on 52 carries and also scored a touchdown, while furthermore registering 16 catches for an additional 163 yards.

With the 25-year-old out, the Panthers turned to rookie Chuba Hubbard as their number one running back and receiver out of the backfield. The team also used rotational options Royce Freeman and Ameer Abdullah on occasion.

A healthy McCaffrey is Carolina’s clear-cut starting running back, however.

Earlier this week, he returned to practice to open the 21-day IR-activation window. McCaffrey apparently did enough to convince the team to officially add him to its 53-man roster just a few days later, and to give him a shot to play against the Patriots — even if in a more limited role than usual.

The Panthers also announced on Saturday that starting quarterback Sam Darnold cleared the concussion protocol.

The former New York Jets first-round draft pick now in his first season as a Panther remains questionable to play on Sunday, though: he is also dealing with a shoulder injury. Darnold will be a game-time decision, with P.J. Walker the next man up in case Carolina’s QB1 is unable to go.