Panthers' Christian McCaffrey to be sidelined multiple weeks with ankle injury

The Carolina Panthers will be without their star player for at least a few games.

Running back Christian McCaffrey is expected to miss multiple weeks with a high-ankle sprain he sustained Sunday in a 31-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Panthers coach Matt Rhule confirmed on Monday.

McCaffrey said the initial timeline given to him for a return was four to six weeks.

"They say four to six weeks, well, that's a challenge to me," McCaffrey said in a news conference Monday. "Hopefully I can get back a lot earlier than that, but I'm gonna attack this."

Rhule did not say whether the team would put him on injured reserve, which would rule him out for at least three weeks.

McCaffrey left the game after scoring his second touchdown of the day on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter, but both Rhule and the running back said the injury occurred a few plays earlier. He did not return after exiting, finishing the game with 59 yards on 18 rushing attempts while adding four receptions for 29 yards.

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium.

McCaffrey, 24, has not missed a game in the previous three-plus seasons of his career. An All-Pro pick in 2019, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last season with 2,392, the third-best total in league history. He also became the third running back ever to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

Carolina signed McCaffrey to a four-year, $64 million contract extension this offseason, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.

The Panthers face the Los Angeles Chargers on the road in Week 3 before hosting the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons in the following two weeks.

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.