Panthers RB Miles Sanders confident he'll be ready to play in regular-season opener vs. Falcons

Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders signs autographs at the NFL football team's training camp on Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Spartanburg, S.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders said Tuesday he’ll be ready to play in his team’s Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons despite missing more than two weeks of training camp with a groin injury.

“Absolutely,” Sanders said when asked if he's confident he'll play in Week 1.

Sanders returned to practice this week. He is scheduled to start and is considered Carolina’s “three-down back,” according to coach Frank Reich.

He hasn’t played in either of the team’s exhibition games and his status for Friday night’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions remains uncertain, Reich said.

The Panthers signed Sanders to a four-year, $25.4 million contract in the offseason in hopes of replacing Christian McCaffrey, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for four draft picks midway through last season.

“We do feel like Miles has the opportunity and potential to be one of our playmakers,″ Reich said. “He’s explosive. He’s a dual threat. He’s got long speed, he’s got burst, he’s got quickness, he’s got good vision. That’s why we went out and got him.″

Sanders caught 50 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019, in addition to rushing for 818 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

But his receiving numbers have tailed off the past three years with Sanders catching no more than 28 passes in a single season. He had just 20 receptions last season during Philadelphia’s run to the Super Bowl, although he did rush for a career-high 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“Yes, I would love to showcase my talent, whether it’s catching the ball, running the ball, blocking,″ Sanders said. “I’ll do whatever to help our team win.″

Sanders declined to declare any personal goals heading into the season, but said he thinks the Panthers will have a solid offense and that the ball will be spread around among several players.