Fantasy football owners and fans of the Carolina Panthers who were hoping Christian McCaffrey would return Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons will apparently have to wait a little longer for the star to get back on the field. The running back isn’t expected to play in the Week 8 contest as he is still recovering from a high ankle sprain.

McCaffrey returned to practice five weeks after he was placed on injured reserve. Despite speculation that the 24-year-old might play in the upcoming NFC South matchup, he will remain sidelined for one more game, according to multiple reports.

The Panthers are being cautious with McCaffrey on a short week. Carolina was defeated by the New Orleans Saints 27-24 Sunday.

Before getting hurt in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCaffrey totaled 156 rushing yards, 67 receiving yards, and four touchdowns to start the 2020 NFL season. McCaffrey led the league with 403 touches, 2,392 yards from scrimmage, and 19 touchdowns in 2019.

Carolina gave McCaffrey a four-year, $64 million contract extension in April. The fourth-year player has the highest average yearly salary of any running back in NFL history.

Given how much money the Panthers have invested in McCaffrey, it makes sense for the team to give him another week before putting him back on the field. It doesn’t hurt that Carolina has played relatively well in McCaffrey’s absence.

The Panthers have won three of their five games without McCaffrey. Mike Davis has been an adequate replacement, averaging 4.0 yards per carry with 233 receiving yards out of the backfield.

The Panthers beat the Falcons 23-16 in Week 5 without McCaffrey.

Projected to be the worst team in the division, Carolina is two games ahead of Atlanta, who are sitting in last place.

Christian McCaffrey Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey scores a touchdown at Bank of America Stadium on Oct. 7, 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images