CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)Baker Mayfield is getting another chance as Carolina’s starting quarterback.
Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, will return to the Panthers starting lineup on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens after P.J. Walker was diagnosed with a high left ankle sprain.
Walker was injured in the fourth quarter of Carolina’s 25-15 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night when two defensive players crashed into his leg. He got up with a slight limp, but remained in the game.
”It wasn’t something that was reported at the time,” Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks said. ”He just sucked it up. He played through it. As we evaluated him further, we realized he needed an MRI.”
Wilks said Walker will not play Sunday, but indicated he does not expect him to be placed on injured reserve.
Sam Darnold will be Mayfield’s backup. Mayfield declined comment to the media on Monday, saying he will talk on Wednesday.
Walker said he didn’t realize how severe the injury was at the time, adding ”but the images and pictures (from the MRI) said otherwise.”
Walker was 2-3 as the starter, completed 58% of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He averaged 134.2 yards passing per game.
”This is really disappointing, especially as a team where we getting better every week,” Walker said Monday. ”It’s tough to deal with and I want to be out there with the guys for sure.”
Walker is the third Carolina quarterback to suffer a high ankle sprain this year. Darnold was injured in the preseason and Mayfield in Week 5.
All three injuries have come at home on Carolina’s artificial surface, which was installed prior to the 2021 season.
Mayfield started the first five games with the Panthers before injuring his ankle, forcing the Panthers to go with Walker.
Mayfield struggled, going 1-4 with four touchdowns and four interceptions and a 71.9 quarterback rating. He relieved Walker two weeks ago at Cincinnati with the Panthers trailing 35-0 at halftime and threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilks said he wants to see Mayfield do a better job of protecting the football on Sunday.
”That increases our chances of winning when we don’t turn the ball over,” Wilks said.
Carolina’s running game is much stronger than it was when Mayfield was playing. It’s led by D’Onta Foreman, who has run for three 100-yard games and four touchdowns in the last four outings.
”Everything starts up front,” Wilks said. ”We’ve got to do a great job of really establishing the run game, and when we do pass we’ve got to do a great job of giving him a clean pocket so he can go through his progressions and get the ball down the field.”
Wilks officially confirmed the Panthers have lost cornerback Donte Jackson for the season to a torn Achilles tendon. He said Jackson will have surgery soon.
Also, defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (calf) and tight Gio Ricci (neck) are out this week against the Ravens. Defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon will start against quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
Wilks hopes to get safety Jeremy Chinn back on the field this week after he missed the last six games with a hamstring injury.
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