CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers don't expect running back Christian McCaffrey to play Sunday against Detroit, and the status of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater remains in doubt after he was limited in Wednesday's practice with a sprained right knee.
For McCaffrey, it will be his second missed start with a shoulder injury suffered in his first game back after missing six straight with a high ankle sprain. He had not been at practice since suffering the shoulder injury late in a Nov. 8 loss to Kansas City.
The decision to basically rule McCaffrey out came two days after Rhule said he was optimistic the NFL's highest-paid back would play this week.
"So I don't know when it'll be," Rhule said of McCaffrey's return. "I don't know whether it will be next week. Or the next. I'm not sure. Nobody knows their body better than Christian."
Rhule added that he anticipated having McCaffrey back at some point this season.
Bridgewater worked on the side with the trainer during the media portion of Wednesday's practice and took limited reps in the rest of practice. He had a brace on the knee injured Sunday against Tampa Bay and appeared to be walking without a noticeable limp.
If Bridgewater isn't ready for the Lions, he likely would return the next week to face one of his former teams, the Minnesota Vikings. The last time Bridgewater was the full-time starter before this season was with the Vikings in 2016.
Then, he suffered a left knee injury that threatened his career during a noncontact drill in training camp.
The Panthers (3-7) plan to use both 2019 third-round pick Will Grier and former XFL and Temple star P.J. Walker if Bridgewater is unavailable. Grier hasn't played this season, but he was 0-2 at the end of last season with starter Cam Newton on injured reserve.
Walker, who helped Rhule turn around the Temple program as the starter from 2013 to 2016, has played briefly in two games this season. He has completed 3 of 8 pass attempts for 15 yards.
Walker earned a bit of notoriety earlier this year with the XFL's Houston Roughnecks, going 5-0 as the starter with 15 passing touchdowns and one rushing before COVID-19 shut down the league.
Both players have been active as Bridgewater's backup at various points during the season as Rhule wanted to keep the competition for the backup spot going.
"We feel we can get two guys ready the way we practice," Rhule said. "If Teddy can't go, this will give us real clarity on who the No. 2 should be."
Both players believe it's important to get those reps in practice and the game.
"I know I can play in this league," Grier said. "I know I can play really well in this league. What I don't know is when that time will come."