Panthers coach Ron Rivera started the week talking about taking a little off rookie running back Christian McCaffrey’s plate, and ended it by hinting at what one of those changes might look like.
Rivera told reporters Friday that seldom-used running back Cameron Artis-Payne could get some offensive snaps at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
And though Artis-Payne led the team in rushing during the preseason, Rivera indicated his work would likely come as a pass-blocker in place of McCaffrey.
Rivera called the 5-10, 215-pound Artis-Payne “a little bit bigger guy,” and compared him to former running back/fullback Mike Tolbert, who signed with Buffalo during the offseason after Carolina cut him.
“There’s some really good things that Cap has done this week,” said Rivera, referring to Artis-Payne by his nickname. “So if the right situation comes in, Cameron Artis-Payne may get some opportunities.”
Artis-Payne, a third-year back from Auburn, has been active the past four games but has been used exclusively on special teams.
At his current pace, McCaffrey should break Jonathan Stewart’s single-season, team record for catches by a running back. But the 5-11, 205-pounder has had trouble at times holding up against blitzing linebackers.
“It’s one of the things you get concerned with having Christian in there,” Rivera said.
Rivera also said he expects wide receiver Kaelin Clay, reacquired this week on waivers from Buffalo, to be active against the Bucs. Clay gives the Panthers another deep threat to complement rookie Curtis Samuel.