The Carolina Panthers traded Kelvin Benjamin in part because of the high regard the team holds rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Now the Panthers will have to play on without him.
Samuel will undergo season-ending surgery on his left ankle and be placed on injured reserve, the team announced on Tuesday. The rookie wideout injured the ankle in the third quarter of Carolina’s 45-21 win against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
Samuel’s was enjoying perhaps his best game as a pro prior to sustaining the injury, with 5 catches for 45 yards — both career highs — before going down.
“There were a lot of good things,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Tuesday of Samuel’s game, according to the Panthers’ official website. “He had a couple of third-down conversions, and his awareness is becoming better and better as far as finding holes in the zones. He’s doing a better job on releases — just all the little things on route running. He made a tough catch when he got hit hard on a deep cross and held onto it.”
Shula and the Panthers will now have to rely on other skill position players to pick up the slack, together.
“It’s kind of a collective effort,” Shula said. “Is there anybody as fast as him? There are some guys on our team that would say yes. We’re going to try hard to find ways to put guys in place for what they do best and then have them go do it.”
That collective effort would include Kaelin Clay, Russell Shepard and Damiere Byrd when he comes off injured reserve.
It’s not all bad for Carolina, though. New No. 1 wideout Devin Funchess is healthy, rookie running back Christian McCaffrey is proving himself as a receiving threat, and tight end Greg Olsen is set to return from injured reserve in Week 12.