Panthers’ Darnold, Gonzalez suffer ‘significant’ injuries


Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said backup quarterback Sam Darnold and kicker Zane Gonzalez both suffered “significant” injuries in the 21-0 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills on Friday night.

Darnold has a high ankle sprain, which is normally a four-to-six week injury. But Rhule said doctors haven’t determined how much time he’ll miss, adding that putting him on short-term injured reserve is a possibility.

Darnold’s left ankle twisted awkwardly after Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer landed on him as the quarterback was releasing the ball. Several Panthers players ran over to him as he was helped onto the cart. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, a good friend of Darnold’s, also ran onto the field to offer encouragement.

Darnold was 5 of 11 for 49 yards and ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give Carolina a 21-0 lead. He was 4-7 last season as Carolina’s starter.

The Panthers will enter the season with Baker Mayfield as their starter and PJ Walker as his backup.

“We’re not sure of the exact length of that injury,” Rhule said Saturday on a videoconference call. “We sent those images to a specialist to gauge it, but it does look like a significant injury that could take some time.”

Gonzalez’s injury appears even worse, and there is a possibility it could be season-ending. He will see a specialist to determine the degree of injury.

Rhule wouldn’t specify what Gonzalez did to his groin while practicing kicks into the net on the sideline. But he said the Panthers will be looking to sign a kicker before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns.

“We are bringing guys in and figuring out our options,” Rhule said.

Gonzalez finished last season 20 of 22 on field goals after joining the Panthers in Week 2 of the regular season and making 22 of 23 extra points. The Panthers re-signed Gonzalez to a two-year, $4.5 million contract after he made his final 17 field goals last season.

This is the second straight week the Panthers have lost a quarterback to an injury in a preseason game.

Last week rookie Matt Corral, the team’s third-round draft pick, suffered a season-ending injury when he tore a ligament in his foot in a 20-10 loss to the New England Patriots.

Reporting by Associated Press.


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