Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold (ankle) exits preseason game on cart

CHARLOTTE, NC — Panthers backup quarterback Sam Darnold, who lost the starting job to Baker Mayfield earlier in the week, walked out of Friday’s preseason finale against Buffalo with a golf cart after suffering a left ankle injury late in the third quarter.

He did not return to the game, which the Panthers won 21-0.

It was the second time in a week that the Panthers lost a quarterback in a preseason game. Third-round pick Matt Corral suffered a season-ending Lisfranc tear in last Friday’s preseason loss in New England.

If Darnold’s injury is serious, the Panthers would have just two quarterbacks left — Mayfield and former XFL star PJ Walker — heading out for the Sept. 11 opener against the Cleveland Browns.

The Panthers planned to keep three quarterbacks early in storage, with Corral expected to be third behind Mayfield and Darnold. Corral’s injury changed the mindset of keeping two, but Darnold’s injury could force another adjustment.

Darnold was hit from behind by Buffalo defensive tackle CJ Brewer while running to the right to knock the ball away. Brewer’s body seemed to roll over Darnold’s ankles.

Darnold lay for a few minutes before being helped into a golf cart.

Mayfield started and completed 9 of 15 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns in a quarter and a half for a 116.4 passer rating. Darnold was 5-for-11 for 48 yards. He also had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to make it 21-0.

The Panthers acquired Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets last year. He went 4-7 as a starter in 2021.

Carolina acquired Mayfield in a July trade with Cleveland, which moved away from the 2018 first overall pick after acquiring Houston’s Deshaun Watson.

Mayfield and Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft, had what the team called an open competition for the starting job, which became Mayfield’s on Monday.

Carolina also saw kicker Zane Gonzalez walk away on a cart with a groin injury as he kicked the net on the sidelines. Gonzalez suffered a season-ending quad injury in Buffalo last December. Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold (ankle) exits preseason game on cart

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