Another game, and another change at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers heading into Week 12.

Sam Darnold will make his season debut for the Panthers on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, becoming the fourth different quarterback to play for Carolina this season and the third different starter. 

Darnold, acquired from the New York Jets in April 2021, replaces Baker Mayfield, who threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 13-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and dropped to 1-5 as the team’s starter. 

Darnold has spent most of this season on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain he suffered during the preseason. He went 4-8 as Carolina’s starter last season, but was 1-8 in his last nine games. He ended up completing 59.9 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 71.9 passer rating. 

"You learn a lot just by watching," Darnold said recently. "There’s a lot to learn in terms of walking around the building, learning from other guys. There’s a lot you can learn when you don’t have the stress of being a starter. But at the end of the day, I want to be out there." 

Coach Steve Wilks opted to go with Darnold after Mayfield’s dismal performance, and P.J. Walker is not yet ready to return from his own high-ankle sprain. Walker was 2-3 before suffering his injury in a Week 10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.  

At 3-8, the Panthers are tied with the Chicago Bears for the worst record in the NFC and are headed for a fifth straight season out of the playoffs.

Baker Mayfield has taken the blame for the Carolina Panthers' 1-3 start to the season amid calls for a change at quarterback, but insists he is the man to lead them out of their jam.

Mayfield threw two interceptions in Sunday's 26-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, finishing with a season-low passer rating of 61.9.

Under Mayfield's leadership, the Panthers have managed a league-low 262.3 yards per game this season, as well as recording the NFL's third-least passing yards per contest.

Mayfield, who joined the Panthers from the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, and incumbent Sam Darnold had a prolonged battle to be the side's starting quarterback in the preseason, with the 2018 NFL Draft top overall pick eventually given the nod by head coach Matt Rhule.

Rhule insisted that a change at quarterback was "not right to speak on" after Sunday's game before backing Mayfield in midweek amid mounting criticism.

Mayfield said the criticism was "completely fair" but was bullish he could get the Panthers back on track, starting with Sunday's clash against the San Francisco 49ers, who boast the NFL's best defense.

"I pride myself on being a guy that elevates the guys around him and being able to lead at an extremely high level,'' Mayfield told reporters on Wednesday.

"Obviously, that has not happened yet. I'm working really hard on that and it starts with me just doing my job the very best I can and going from there. Yeah, I take a lot of blame for that and I consistently will.

"I've been here before. I'm pretty comfortable in this position, so I have experience at being able to bounce back, being able to handle things the right way and to lead. For me, we'll be just fine."

Mayfield got testy with one reporter who asked about the batted passes on Wednesday, retorting twice: "If you have a drill for me, let me know."

The Panthers' QB's 2022 completion percentage is a career-low 54.7 per cent, but Rhule labelled him as "elitely resilient".

"You don't go from unrecruited out of college to Heisman Trophy to first pick of the draft without having tremendous self-confidence," Rhule said. "Baker, he's been through a lot already as a player. I have no concerns about his resilience.''

Mayfield's likely replacement would be Darnold, who is yet to come back off injured reserve after suffering an ankle sprain in Carolina's preseason. Darnold started at quarterback 11 times for the Panthers last season, going 4-7 after joining in a trade from the New York Jets.

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said a change at quarterback was "not right to speak on" after Baker Mayfield's struggles continued in a 26-16 defeat against the Arizona Cardinals.

Mayfield threw two interceptions in the loss, finishing with a season-low passer rating of 61.9 as the Panthers slipped to 1-3 for the season.

Under Mayfield's leadership, the Panthers have managed a league-low 262.3 yards per game this season, as well as recording the NFL's third-least passing yards per match.

When asked whether Mayfield's status as starter was at risk after the game, Rhule told reporters: "I'm going to refrain from anything big picture until tomorrow.

"At the end of the day, I'm on the headset, I see the things, I know that it's never just one person here, one person there, it's a lot of different things.

"I'll try to give you a really well thought-out answer after watching the tapes.

"All that being said, I believe that we can play better than that. I just feel like we have to expect more from all of us as an offense, and it starts with me first.

"Offensively, we have to score more points. So yeah, we have to get it corrected, but in terms of any one person, I just don't think it's right to speak on it right now."

Mayfield's likely replacement would be Sam Darnold, though he is yet to come back off injured reserve after suffering an ankle sprain in Carolina's preseason.

Darnold started at quarterback 11 times for the Panthers last season, going 4-7 after joining in a trade from the New York Jets.

 

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering a high left ankle sprain in Friday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, according to NFL.com.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule told reporters on Saturday that Darnold's injury is "significant", and the former first-round pick will undergo further testing to determine a timetable for a return.

"We're not sure we have the exact length," Ruhle said. "We've sent images to specialists to try to gauge it. But again, that does look like a significant injury that could take some time."

Darnold was carted off during the third quarter of Carolina's 21-0 win after landing awkwardly when hit by Buffalo defensive tackle C.J. Brewer.

The fifth-year QB was slated to be the primary backup to offseason addition Baker Mayfield, whom Ruhle declared the starter earlier in the week.

Ruhle acknowledged Darnold could begin the season on short-term injured reserve, which would keep him out for at least four games. 

With both Darnold and rookie Matt Corral out, P.J. Walker is expected to serve as the number two QB for the September 11 opener against Cleveland.

Corral, a third-round pick in this year's draft, sustained a season-ending Lisfranc injury in last week's game at New England. 

"We have two quarterbacks [and] normally we would go into the season with two," Ruhle said. "Sam, I think he will be back. It's just a matter of how many weeks it is."

Ruhle also said kicker Zane Gonzalez will be sidelined indefinitely with a groin injury that also took place in the third quarter of Friday's game.

"He's going to be seen by a specialist, and that will lead to any future decisions that have to be made," Ruhle said. "But it is a significant injury to his groin.

"He's a warrior. He'll find a way to battle back, and we'll find out exactly what the length of that is."

Gonzalez is coming off a strong 2021 season in which he converted 20 of 22 field goal attempts and 22 of 23 point-after tries. 

A few days after losing the Carolina Panthers starting job, Sam Darnold was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the third quarter of Friday night’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. 

Darnold was hit by defensive lineman C.J. Brewer as he was throwing the ball away. His left ankle appeared to become twisted as he landed awkwardly on the turf.  

He is believed to have suffered a high-ankle sprain based on initial evaluation, according to sources. He will have an MRI on Saturday to determine the severity and if there is other damage.  

Carolina coach Matt Rhule announced earlier this week that Baker Mayfield would be the team’s starting quarterback for the season opener against the Cleveland Browns on September 11.  

Darnold was five-of-11 for 49 yards and ran for a one-yard touchdown before exiting. 

If Darnold is out for any length of time, P.J. Walker would likely move into a backup role behind Mayfield. Rookie quarterback Matt Corral suffered a season-ending injury when he tore a ligament in his foot in a 20-10 loss to the New England Patriots last week.  

Baker Mayfield will be the Carolina Panthers' first quarterback to take the field when they open their preseason schedule against the Washington Commanders, the team confirmed.

Mayfield and Sam Darnold continue to battle for the starting job in Carolina.

The pair are each expected to play one series on Saturday before turning over the bulk of the game to P.J. Walker and rookie Matt Corral. 

Mayfield getting the first chance on Saturday could be an indication that he has the inside track to the starting job, but the competition remains open. 

Head coach Matt Rhule has called the quarterback competition an "ongoing process", and it would be no surprise if the Panthers used the entire preseason to evaluate before naming a starter. 

"When we know, we know," Rhule said. "If we knew for sure, we would say it and just move on with it. When we, we know.

"Every day brings new evidence. Every day brings new insights. 

"But at the same time, they're both competitors. If one guy has a strong day, the next guy fights back the next day.

"I think it's been healthy for our team. It's been healthy for the staff. I think it's been done the right way. I'm pleased with where it's at."

The Panthers open the regular season on September 11 against the Cleveland Browns, Mayfield's former team. 

The two signal-callers will be forever linked as the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2018 draft, with Mayfield going first overall and Darnold being chosen third. 

Darnold spent three seasons with the New York Jets before being traded to the Panthers for draft picks last April. He won his first three starts with Carolina last season before finishing 4-7 with nine touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. 

Mayfield started 59 career games for the Browns, and his efficient play in 2020 helped lead Cleveland to their first playoff victory since the 1994 season. 

Mayfield's injury-marred 2021 campaign was a letdown, however, and the Browns chose to pursue Deshaun Watson in the trade market. 

Baker Mayfield's focus is solely on the Carolina Panthers and his "transparent" battle with fellow quarterback Sam Darnold, despite developments in the Deshaun Watson saga at former team the Cleveland Browns.

Mayfield – the Browns' first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft – was traded to the Panthers last month after Cleveland had moved for Watson.

But when the Panthers play the Browns in Week 1, Watson will be absent, following news of his suspension by the league on Monday.

Former US district judge Sue L. Robinson advised the NFL that Watson should be banned for six games with no additional fine following a disciplinary hearing.

Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The NFL could yet appeal that decision and pursue a longer suspension, but both the Browns and the NFLPA have accepted the punishment.

Jacoby Brissett will instead fill in until late October, but that is of no interest to Mayfield, who told reporters: "Honestly, it's none of my business.

"I don't play against the other quarterback. I know that's the most cliched thing to say, but that's just the truth.

"When it comes down to it, I'm game-planning against their defense, and if I'm playing or not, I'm trying to help this team win. That's my mindset going into it, so I've got to keep getting better.

"But I'm not focused about Week 1 right now. We'll handle that when it comes, but for now it's about getting the Panthers better and our offense continuing to get better as well."

Indeed, there is no guarantee Mayfield will be starting either, as he faces competition from Darnold – the third overall pick in the same 2018 draft – for the starting spot.

Mayfield is happy with how that tussle has been treated by his new team, though.

"Everything has been extremely transparent," he said. "They're telling us exactly how they're handling it.

"It's not being said to one person and Sam hears another thing; it's right there in front of us and clear and concise."

Sam Darnold was confirmed as the Carolina Panthers' starting quarterback for 2022, although offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo quickly clarified his comments.

Former third overall pick Darnold joined the Panthers from the New York Jets ahead of last season but again struggled.

In 12 games, he completed just 59.9 per cent of his passes for 2,527 passing yards, only nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Darnold did just about beat out competition from the returning Cam Newton to end the year as the starter, but the Panthers have the sixth pick in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft – and a second return for Newton has not been ruled out.

However, incoming OC McAdoo seemingly announced Darnold's role for 2022 when he answered "yes" to a query as to whether he would be the starter – the sort of question other Panthers have skirted around.

The former New York Giants head coach revealed a big part of his decision to come to Carolina was to work with Darnold, yet he then acknowledged the situation could still change.

Coach Matt Rhule still has a say, McAdoo explained, but: "The way it is in the building right now, Sam is our starting quarterback."

McAdoo added: "One of the things I've been working on is being better talking to you people [media], so announcing the starting quarterback here I just put my foot in my mouth.

"That wasn't something I should have said."

Sam Darnold has insisted he can still be a starting quarterback in the NFL, despite the Carolina Panthers' seeming distrust.

Darnold was traded to the Panthers from the New York Jets ahead of the 2021 season, yet Carolina are potentially eyeing a quarterback in the NFL Draft and have not ruled out another return for Cam Newton.

The 24-year-old Darnold played 12 times for Carolina last season (11 starts), recording 2,527 passing yards for nine touchdowns, along with five rushing scores.

Over the past two seasons, Darnold has thrown for only 18 touchdowns but 24 interceptions, while being sacked 70 times.

But despite the Panthers perhaps wanting to upgrade, Darnold is sure of his own ability.

He told the Bussin' with the Boys podcast: "It truly is like whatever happens happens, because at the end of the day, it's out of my control, and I know that.

"I have enough security in myself to where I can be like: 'I know I'm a good quarterback. I know I can be a good quarterback in this league. I've proved it.'

"I know there's a team, if something happens, that would want me."

Darnold was drafted by the Jets as the third overall pick in 2018 but struggled to live up to his billing in New York.

He completed just 57.7 per cent of his pass attempts in his rookie season before improving slightly in a 2019 campaign in which he threw 19 TD passes and 13 interceptions.

A tough final season with the Jets was followed by Darnold being traded to the Panthers for three draft picks, including a second-round selection in 2022.

Last year, form and fitness continued to evade Darnold, who has never played more than 13 games in a season. His passer rating of 71.9 represented a miserable career low.

He did at least beat out the returning Newton for the starting job, but the former MVP could yet sign for the Panthers again.

Scott Fitterer says Sam Darnold is "in the lead" to be the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback for the 2022 NFL season but the "door's still open" for Cam Newton to land the role.

Panthers general manager Fitterer on Friday revealed Darnold is the frontrunner to start under center when the new campaign gets under way.

Carolina missed out on Deshaun Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns last week.

That leaves Darnold and P.J. Walker as the only quarterbacks on the roster, with the 24-year-old set to get the nod.

"Sam's on the roster as I sit here right now," Fitterer said. "He's in the lead for that job. We want him to take it and run with it.

"But we're gonna add a lot of competition to that room. The whole emphasis is to stabilise the quarterback position to play winning football."

That competition could come in the form of Newton, who rejoined the Panthers last November after Darnold sustained a shoulder injury.

A former number one overall pick, Newton's return did not go to plan as Carolina lost all five games he started.

The 32-year-old threw for 684 yards and had five interceptions, but Fitterer says he is being considered by the Panthers.

"The thing with Cam, it's got to be a fit for us and it’s got to be a fit for him just as well," Fitterer said.

"He’s looking for a certain opportunity. The door's still open for us. We're very open to Cam. We'll see where it goes. He knows where we stand."

Cam Newton said he is "still floating" following his return to the Carolina Panthers.

Newton was released by the New England Patriots in August but earned a chance with the Panthers after a shoulder injury to starting quarterback Sam Darnold.

Veteran QB Newton spent nine years with the Panthers from 2011 to 2019, winning the 2015 NFL MVP and earning three Pro-Bowl selections.

"Honestly, I'm still floating," Newton told reporters on Friday, after signing a one-year deal worth up to $10million.

He added: "This ain't for no ploy. This ain't for no ticket sales. This ain't for no Cinderella story. It's to win football games. That's pretty much what's on my heart, and that's how I'm going about it."

The Panthers released Newton in 2019 after giving him permission to seek a trade, eventually joining the Patriots as a free agent. Newton insisted there were no hard feelings from that.

"Were there disconnects in the past? It's irrelevant," Newton said. "The fact that we're able to make what may seem a lot of wrongs or some wrongs right, that's the most exciting thing about it.

"To hell with feelings. It would be the biggest right and wrong by just winning football games."

The Panthers, who are 4-5, placed Darnold on injured reserve on Friday with his shoulder injury expected to take four to six weeks to heal.

P.J. Walker will start at quarterback for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, although Newton is expected to come into starting calculations for the following week's game against the Washington Football Team.

The Carolina Panthers have re-signed former number one overall pick Cam Newton after first-choice quarterback Sam Darnold suffered a shoulder injury.

Darnold was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, leaving the 4-5 Panthers short under center with P.J. Walker set for his second NFL start against the Arizona Cardinals.

However, the Panthers moved quickly on Thursday to agree a deal for a free agent they know well.

Newton was released by the New England Patriots in training camp this year as Bill Belichick instead went with rookie QB Mac Jones in Foxborough.

The dual-threat QB had also been released by Carolina following the 2019 season, moving on under new coach Matt Rhule following an injury-hit year.

Newton played only two games in 2019 due to a Lisfranc fracture in Week 2, having only returned from a shoulder issue at the start of the season.

Having been the league MVP in 2015 with the Panthers, throwing 35 touchdown passes and rushing for a further 10 scores, Newton's performances with New England were rather more ordinary.

Still retaining that same athleticism, the 32-year-old had 12 rushing TDs in 2020, his most in any season since his rookie year.

But Newton was poor through the air, tossing eight TDs to 10 interceptions and moving the ball just 7.07 air yards per attempt as the Pats ranked 23rd for yards per passing play (6.06).

That might still represent an upgrade on Darnold, though, who has the Panthers 30th by the same metric this year with 5.42 yards per play.

Like Newton, Darnold has provided a threat with his legs, scoring five rushing TDs, but he has thrown only seven scores to 11 picks.

Carolina exercised Darnold's fifth-year option following his trade from the New York Jets but will now be paying former favourite Newton up to $10million to potentially fill his boots this year, according to reports. That includes $4.5m guaranteed and a $1.5m roster bonus.

The Carolina Panthers have placed quarterback Sam Darnold on injured reserve due to a shoulder issue that could keep him out for a minimum of four weeks.

Darnold is thought to have sustained the injury last Sunday as the Panthers were beaten 24-6 by the New England Patriots.

The 24-year-old picked up a shoulder problem - believed to be separate from his latest issue - and sustained a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons the previous week, but was passed fit to face the Patriots.

An MRI scan revealed an incomplete fracture on the scapula of the quarterback's right shoulder, but he played through the injury in the eventual defeat.

"You look at the second half, he obviously was playing with something," Panthers coach Matt Rhule said earlier this week.

Darnold will now be replaced by P.J. Walker, who joined the Panthers last year and is set for his second NFL start against the Arizona Cardinals.

Walker played college football at Temple and was coached by Rhule, who insisted that the 26-year-old is where he is on merit and because of the ability he has shown.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 but did not feature for them before eventually joining the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL two years later, before moving to Carolina in 2020.

"P.J. is here because I believe in him," Rhule said.

Sam Darnold has a partial fracture of his scapula and is expected to miss at least a few weeks, leaving the Carolina Panthers in need of a new starting quarterback. 

NFL Network first reported the injury Tuesday, and The Athletic said the team believes Darnold was hurt during the second quarter of Sunday's 24-6 home loss to the New England Patriots. 

Darnold threw three interceptions in the game, though two of them occurred in the second half – potentially after he already was injured. 

That showing continued a run of poor performances by Darnold in his first season with the team that have prompted questions about whether the 24-year-old would remain the starter. 

To that point, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule told reporters Monday that his first priority was determining whether Darnold was healthy, as the quarterback was set to have an MRI after complaining of soreness in his shoulder following the game. 

Now the Panthers have their answer, and Darnold's backup P.J. Walker should get the start Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals. 

Darnold has started all nine games this season for the Panthers (4-5) after arriving in an off-season trade from the New York Jets. 

He has completed 59.5 per cent of his passes for 1,986 yards with seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions, which is tied with Cincinnati's Joe Burrow for the most in the league. 

Darnold's 71.3 quarterback rating is third-worst among NFL starters, with only rookies Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears (69.4) and Zach Wilson of the Jets (63.5) below him. 

Multiple outlets reported earlier Tuesday that Carolina plans to sign veteran quarterback Matt Barkley off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad. 

The 31-year-old served as the backup for the Buffalo Bills the last three seasons, appearing in eight games over that span. 

 

Baker Mayfield threw a 60-yard touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones as the Cleveland Browns won without Odell Beckham Jr in Week 9, although Joe Burrow contributed to the Cincinnati Bengals' 41-16 defeat.

The Browns made the short trip to Cincinnati with Peoples-Jones back from a groin injury and in the lineup after fellow receiver Beckham was released at the end of a week that began with his father criticising quarterback Mayfield.

Beckham had underwhelmed this year since his return to fitness and his absence certainly was not felt on Sunday as Cleveland moved to 5-4 in a big AFC North matchup.

Before Mayfield came to the fore, though, Burrow endured a miserable start. Moments after a penalty reprieve when he was sacked on third and goal, the Bengals QB threw straight to Browns cornerback Denzel Ward on the goal line, covering Ja'Marr Chase and racing away for a 99-yard defensive TD.

Joe Mixon replied with the first of his two rushing scores, but Nick Chubb battled through contact to finish Cleveland's first drive with a TD, which Peoples-Jones added to as he caught Mayfield's first target to a wideout.

Long scores were the name of the day for the Browns, as Chubb's second saw him go 70 yards to score in the third quarter.

Burrow, who had scored three TDs in each of his previous three games, tying a Bengals record, was then picked off again throwing to Chase – this time by John Johnson III. Chase had earlier fumbled for a turnover of his own on a miserable day for two of Cincinnati's offensive stars.

Mayfield finished with 218 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 14-of-21 passing. His second TD pass to David Njoku was set up by another throw to Peoples-Jones, who had 86 yards on just two catches.

Big upsets for Boys and Bills

The Dallas Cowboys had not lost since Week 1 but have a miserable record against the Denver Broncos, who had won the teams' past six meetings – their best ever run against a single opponent and the Cowboys' worst such streak. And six became seven as the Broncos won 30-16 in Dallas, holding their hosts scoreless until the fourth quarter despite Dak Prescott's return.

The Buffalo Bills also suffered a shock defeat as they went down 9-6 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game of zero touchdowns. Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen picked, sacked and recovered a fumble from his namesake, Bills QB Josh Allen.

However, the Baltimore Ravens survived a scare, as Lamar Jackson led them back from 17-3 down to make overtime, where Justin Tucker clinched a 34-31 win. Jackson is now 12-0 as a starter against NFC opponents.

Darnold spooked again

Sam Darnold said he was "seeing ghosts" when he threw four interceptions for the New York Jets against the New England Patriots in 2019, and Bill Belichick's defense has continued to spook the quarterback. He had three picks with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and now has nine in just four career starts against New England, all four of which the Pats have won.

New England are hot on the heels of the Bills now, while AFC East rivals the Miami Dolphins snapped their seven-game losing run against the Houston Texans despite Tua Tagovailoa sitting out with a finger issue.

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