Christian McCaffrey is not yet ready to feature in Carolina’s playing lineup as the star running back was put on injured reserve on Saturday, meaning he will miss at least the next Panthers three games with a hamstring injury.

McCaffrey already has missed two games, both of which the Carolina side have ended up losing. Currently, the earliest game he is likely to return to action is November 7 against the New England Patriots.

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McCaffrey will have missed 18 of 24 games with injuries since becoming the league’s highest-paid running back following the 2019 season.

McCaffrey was injured in Carolina’s 24-9 win over the Houston Texans in September when he pulled his hamstring after making a stutter step while running a sweep play on the team’s third possession. Until then, he had 31 yards on seven carries but did not return.

Rookie Chuba Hubbard replaced McCaffrey and ran for 52 yards on 11 carries against the Texans. Since then he has taken up the mantle of the first-choice RB

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The injury was yet another frustrating setback for McCaffrey, who hasn’t been able to consistently stay on the field since becoming only the third player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. He missed 13 games last season with separate injuries.

McCaffrey was off to another solid start this season for the unbeaten Panthers with 201 yards rushing on 52 carries and one touchdown, along with 16 receptions for 163 yards. The team counts on him to set up the play-action passing game.

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Meanwhile, the Panthers (3-2) host the Minnesota Vikings (2-3) on Sunday. Hubbard is expected to start for McCaffrey.

Although the 25-year-old practised on Wednesday on a limited basis but was held out on Thursday and Friday.

With inputs from the Associated Press