Though the Panthers had little left to play for in Week 17 besides a victory and their own pride, there were still milestones that McCaffrey could reach: He could become only the third player in NFL history after his draft mate in Kamara and the incomparable Herschel Walker to have 1,500 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards in the first two seasons of his NFL career. He could also reach the 2,000 yards from scrimmage mark.
Early in the game, McCaffrey would end up reaching the first mark with a 22-yard reception. But soon afterwards, McCaffrey went to the bench. After a season where he had 1,098 rushing yards on 219 carries, 107 receptions for 867 yards, 1,965 yards from scrimmage, and 13 touchdowns (Seven rushing, six receiving) while spending copious amounts of time on the field, McCaffrey finally got the opportunity to rest while his team sealed a 33-14 victory to end their season on a high note.
Speaking after the fact, McCaffrey described his 2018 season as a “good” one. That’s putting it lightly: McCaffrey led the Panthers in rushing yards, receiving yards, yards from scrimmage, and touchdowns on his way to earning Second-Team All-Pro honors – His very first All-Pro designation.
With all of his hard work in the offseason paying off, there was one thing left for McCaffrey to do: Finally take a break.
“I think I’ve had an issue my whole life with always going and never really relaxing, and never kind of taking time off,” said McCaffrey as the Panthers cleaned out their lockers. “I think it’s a good thing, because mentally it prepares you for tough times during a game. But I think also at the same time, it can wear you down a little bit.”
“There is a balance between training and resting. I’ll take a little bit of time off for sure, and ease into it when I start to get back training. But I am excited for it. I love that aspect of the game – I love the preparation part.”
At the end of what had been an incredible 2018 for him, McCaffrey was left to go home to Colorado and enjoy some time off. But when the time comes for him to prepare for Year Three of his NFL career, he will commit himself to trying to learn from Year Two and put himself in the best position to ensure that his own success can equate to the Panthers’ success as a whole come 2019.
“There’s a couple things here and there that we’re gonna have to fix, and a lot of guys are gonna have to step up,” said McCaffrey. “But I know we’ve got the guys in this locker room who are ready for that.”
“We’ve got a hell of a team. It’s just gonna take a little bit more. That’s what great is we know that and you can look back on some of these games and realize what you can do better. Those are the points of emphasis in the offseason.”