Matt Rhule: Sam Darnold ‘not close right now’ to coming off IR

The Carolina Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield this offseason with the hopes that he’d be the franchise’s answer at quarterback.

Four games in, the Panthers have probably already come to the conclusion that the Cleveland Browns did last season: Baker just ain’t it.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, any desires to move on from Mayfield and back to Sam Darnold have to be put on hold for now. Darnold, who started for the Panthers much of last season, was hurt in the preseason (ankle) and still hasn’t returned from the injured reserve.

“Not close right now,” head Matt Rhule said regarding Darnold’s potential to come off the IR, according to ESPN. “Not this week. Maybe he starts the window maybe the next week. This was a doctor thing. He’s not going to be practicing this week.”

Mayfield has thrown for just four touchdowns compared to three interceptions so far this season for the Panthers. He was responsible for three turnovers in Carolina’s 26-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals this past weekend — two interceptions and a fumble. 

Still, it doesn’t seem like Rhule is willing to make Mayfield the scapegoat for Carolina’s ugly start to the 2022 season.

“The quarterback always takes a little more blame than maybe sometimes he deserves,” Rhule said. “Sometimes they don’t. … To me, right now, I’m in that process of saying, ‘Hey, what can we do to improve the offense in general.’ ”

The Panthers currently have the worst offense in the NFL, averaging just 262.3 yards per game.

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