NFL: Panthers QB Sam Darnold has ‘significant’ ankle sprain

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold will be sidelined to start the season with a “significant” high-ankle sprain, coach Matt Ruhle said Saturday.

Additionally, Rhule said kicker Zane Gonzalez, who like Darnold was injured during the Panthers’ 21-0 win against the Buffalo Bills on Friday, will be out long-term with a groin injury.

Darnold, 25, underwent an MRI on his left ankle Saturday and is expected to seek a second opinion, per the report.

“It is a significant injury that could take some time,” Rhule said. “If it’s at least a four-game injury, we can put him on the short-term injured reserve.”

Darnold, a fifth-year NFL QB, was carted off the field after sustaining the injury in the third quarter of Friday night’s preseason finale.

Darnold was in the process of throwing an incomplete pass when Bills defensive tackle C.J. Brewer pulled him down, causing Darnold’s ankle to twist unnaturally under Brewer’s weight.

Darnold completed 5 of 11 passes for 49 yards and added a 1-yard rushing touchdown before the injury.

With Darnold unavailable and rookie third-round pick Matt Corral (foot) out for the season, veteran PJ Walker is in line to open the season as the backup to starter Baker Mayfield.

The Panthers host Mayfield’s former team, the Cleveland Browns, in Week 1 on Sept. 11.

Carolina will need to find a kicker before then, and free agent Eddy Piniero is a possibility. He worked with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor with the Chicago Bears.

Gonzalez, 27, entered the league in 2017 with the Cleveland Browns. In his first season with the Panthers in 2021, he converted a career-high 90.9 percent (20 of 22) of his field goal attempts and hit from a career-long 57 yards. He missed one of his 23 extra-point tries.

He was injured warming up on the sideline.

–Field Level Media

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