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Carolina Panthers exploring options after Sam Darnold lands on IR

Head coach Matt Rhule said the Carolina Panthers will “explore any and all options” after placing quarterback Sam Darnold on injured reserve Wednesday.

However, Rhule said he would not get into hypotheticals when a reporter asked whether those options included longtime Panthers quarterback and current free agent Cam Newton.

Rhule said Darnold will be out at least four weeks with an injured throwing shoulder. He was diagnosed earlier this week with an incomplete scapula fracture.

The Panthers signed quarterback Matt Barkley off the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad on Tuesday, and Barkley is expected to be the backup Sunday to P.J. Walker against the host Arizona Cardinals.

A former XFL star, Walker relieved Darnold in the Panthers’ Week 7 loss to the New York Giants last month and went 3-for-14 passing for 33 yards, taking three sacks.

Walker, 26, won his only previous NFL start last season, completing 24 of 34 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in Carolina’s 20-0 defeat of the Detroit Lions on Nov. 22, 2020.

After a 3-0 start, the Panthers have lost five of their last six, including a 24-6 defeat to the New England Patriots on Sunday. Darnold went 16-for-33 in that game with 172 yards, three interceptions and zero touchdowns.

Carolina acquired Darnold in April from the New York Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022. They later shipped Teddy Bridgewater to Denver, lining Darnold up to earn his place as the franchise quarterback.

Darnold, 24, has started all nine games for Carolina in 2021 and has thrown for 1,986 yards, seven touchdowns and a league-high 11 interceptions with a 59.5 percent completion rate.

Barkley, 31, has appeared in 19 games for the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-14), Chicago Bears (2016) and Buffalo Bills (2018-20), mostly in a backup capacity. He made six of his seven career starts for the Bears in 2016. Barkley owns a 58.4 career completion percentage and a 1-to-2 TD-INT ratio (11 touchdowns, 22 picks).

Newton, 32, was cut by the Patriots on Aug. 31. The 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player was 68-55-1 as the starter in Carolina from 2011-19 and is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (29,041) and touchdown passes (182).

Also, defensive end Brian Burns did not practice Wednesday because of his ankle injury and said it would be nice to get an apology from Patriots quarterback Mac Jones but “it’s not gonna happen.” Then he added, “I would just like to play them again. And I wish all my fellow D-end brothers happy hunting.”

Jones grabbed Burns’ ankle and twisted it to tackle him as Burns was pursuing the football after Jones lost a fumble. Many of the Panthers considered it a dirty play.

–Field Level Media