The Carolina Panthers have always been a team that’s focused on the future, and they’ve always been in the process of preparing for it. It’s their goal to have a team that’s in a position to compete for a Super Bowl in the next few years, which is why they drafted Christian McCaffrey, a versatile back out of Stanford, in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In the past few years, McCaffrey has proven himself to be a great player, but he’s not the only one on this team who’s proven that he’s capable of being a great player.
Christian McCaffrey continues to be a catalyst for the Panthers offense and has already cemented himself as a staple in the franchise. Week after week, the dynamic Stanford product continues to be a valuable asset for the Panthers offense, and his performance clearly is an eye-opener for opposing defenses.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Christian McCaffrey’s athletic life revolves around speed, but the Carolina Panthers running back has never experienced it as much as he did Sunday as an honorary pace car driver leading 38 750-horsepower cars to the green flag at the start of the Coca-Cola 600. Austin Dillon, driver of the legendary No. 3 car, wouldn’t be surprised if his good buddy tried to pass the field in a lead car. He’s aggressive and persistent, Dillon said with a laugh. He won’t budge an inch. He wants to win at everything. It was clear that McCaffrey had anticipated the event. I came in with inflated speed expectations, but was told I was driving 46 mph on cruise control. That calms me down a bit, so I think I can do it. Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady and defensive back Jeremy Chinn, along with entertainer and Trackhouse Racing team partner Pitbull, heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury, talk show host Jay Leno and his music director Kevin Eubanks, were among the celebrities who accompanied McCaffrey Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. McCaffrey and WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury were among the celebrities in attendance at the Coca-Cola 600. Harold Hinson/HHP Piloting a pacemaker is one of the many ways McCaffrey has finally established himself as the face of the franchise. Last year, after the Panthers parted ways with quarterback Cam Newton, it didn’t work out. Due to a pandemic and injuries that kept him sidelined for 13 games, McCaffrey has been somewhat invisible both locally and nationally. But he played pro-am golf at the Wells Fargo Championship last month, drawing perhaps the biggest crowd after Phil Mickelson. McCaffrey also created the 22 and Troops program, which helps active U.S. soldiers, veterans, home front personnel and their families overcome trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. The second one. In July, McCaffrey will play piano at a charity concert with country star Zach Bryan. This will be the largest audience McCaffrey has played piano for to date. Dillon, an avid Panthers fan when he’s not behind the wheel of the car once driven by seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, is happy that McCaffrey is finally taking center stage both on and off the field. Everything he does, everything he touches, has to be the best, Dillon said. I feel like I’m one of the most competitive people I know. But he is the most competitive person I have ever met in my life. It’s inspiring. I feel really good. McCaffrey had never missed a game due to injury until last season. This season, a sprained ankle ligament, an AC joint injury and a quadriceps injury have forced him to miss all but three of his 16 games. So it’s a good sign when you see him running and cutting at full speed during practice. What you need to know about the Carolina Panthers: – Signatures Panthers free agents – Free agents report | More NFL – Analysis of each Panthers draft pick – Kipper scores for each team – McShay’s preferred list for all 32 teams – Panthers 2021 schedule | All games I feel good, McCaffrey said. I feel really good. I’m back to 100% and feeling healthy and ready to go. McCaffrey wouldn’t drive a car or hit golf balls if he wasn’t 100% fit. It’s not in his DNA to put anything ahead of football season preparation. McCaffrey doesn’t like to talk about last season because he wasn’t a factor. He couldn’t, as new Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold said, do the kind of weird things that made the former Stanford star in 2019 the third player in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. McCaffrey was also unhappy with his new role as team ambassador, a role Newton held from 2011 to 2019. That in itself is a problem for McCaffrey. Even though he wants to become the best quarterback in NFL history, he doesn’t want all the attention to be on him because this is a team sport. It’s the team game that gets the most individual attention, McCaffrey said. I like doing community work because it’s fun. It is our duty to give back to society what it has given us. Many of my teammates do the same. However, his teammates don’t get as much attention as McCaffrey because of his rare physical skills that make him the best defensive player in the NFL. Dillon thinks McCaffrey could be a successful driver in NASCAR. Maybe he needs some practice, Dillon said. But I don’t think it will take long for him to get good. 22 и 3 So how did McCaffrey and Dillon become good friends? It all started when Dillon approached McCaffrey with a direct message on social media for the 2017 draft. I said: Hey, kid, if you’re in Carolina, let me know, we can meet and talk, Dillon said. It took a while for the relationship to develop because of a scheduling conflict: Dillon lives about an hour from Charlotte, and McCaffrey was very focused to start. Their relationship developed in 2018 after Dillon persuaded McCaffrey and some teammates to be his guests at the NASCAR All-Star race in Charlotte. Today they meet for lunch, play basketball and spend time at Dillon’s near Lexington or McCaffrey’s on Lake Norman. There was even a time when they had the same barber. – Rogers in Denver: What needs to be done? – Megatron talks Stafford, Lions and cannabis – McCaffrey becomes the face of the Panthers – How Carson Wentz fits in with the Colts – Ravens QB Jackson talks Super Bowl He’s just a normal guy who wants to have fun, work hard on himself, learn and grow as a person, Dillon said. Maybe one day McCaffrey and Dillon will share the numbers. McCaffrey ruled out going from No. 22 to No. 5 this year – his number from high school and college – because it would be a good test. According to the source, it would have cost him more than $1 million to buy all of the unsold No. 22 shares, as required by NFL rules. But changes are planned for 2022, when they will be free. I also like him in the double four, Dillon said. I have a feeling that 22 is the number of the fugitive on the run. And all of his rookie cards read 22. Intimidator Last season, McCaffrey wore a black cap with the number 3 on it during the Zoom Challenge, so it made sense that he was asked if it was an Earnhardt or Dillon cap. He said quickly to Dillon. It made me very happy, said Dillon, who has a McCaffrey jersey and some of the runner’s sports cards among his Carolina gear. Dillon had hoped to win the pole for the 600 race to make an Earnhardt Intimidator move and oust McCaffrey from the front row. So when Dillon finished sixth, McCaffrey was asked if he was happy. Yeah, he’s definitely going to bother me, McCaffrey said. I’m sure there are plenty of guys who wouldn’t mind giving me a hard time either. We’ll see. Of course, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who qualified second, did just that, pushing the Panther star into the rear bumper with ease. McCaffrey came to the track early Sunday to run a few laps in the Pacesetter, but Dillon was unable to let him drive due to contractual circumstances. (Dillon stands for Chevrolet; the accompanying car was a Toyota). Austin Dillon didn’t get to see McCaffrey before the race, but he managed to have a chat with him before crossing the finish line in sixth place Sunday night. Harold Hinson/HHP But the two were already in the car together. We won’t go into details, Dillon said with a laugh. He had a new car, and he wanted me to drive it. I was going pretty fast, just for a minute. He loves speed in all its forms. He’s fascinated by it. I’d love to put him in a race car sometime and let him accelerate a bit so he can feel the power and let it out like it does on the track. McCaffrey is focused on his work on the field. He scares defenders – like Earnhardt scares drivers – with his 4.49-40-second speed and jumps that make defenders gasp. The Panthers need it to stop their three game losing streak. McCaffrey has lost 11 consecutive games since 2019, and he wants to do everything he can to change that above all else. So far, he’s happy with what Darnold brings to the offense, and with all the weapons around him. As a fan, Dillon can’t wait for his buddy to get back to doing what he does best. And no, Dillon has no desire to do what McCaffrey does on Sunday. No. They’re crazy, Dillon said. And that’s coming from a guy who calls those who don’t race wild because he drives so fast. I have a helmet and a safety net, Dillon said. It has no rolling frame.
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