Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey placed on injured reserve

How much will the Panthers struggle without McCaffrey? (0:37)

Ryan Clark explains why the Panthers will have a hard time competing while Christian McCaffrey is sidelined for multiple weeks. (0:37)

The Carolina Panthers on Wednesday placed running back Christian McCaffrey on injured reserve, meaning he must miss at least the next three games.

McCaffrey is expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain during Sunday's loss at Tampa Bay, but he said Monday that he hoped to return faster than that.

"They say four to six weeks [to recover]," he said Monday. "Well, that's a challenge to me. Hopefully, I'll get back a lot earlier than this."

Coach Matt Rhule said the Panthers decided to use McCaffrey's roster spot for another player. He didn't expand on who that player might be but added that he was satisfied with the three backs -- Mike Davis, Trenton Cannon and Reggie Bonnafon (practice squad) -- on the roster.

"He's still around the team," Rhule said of McCaffrey. "He's still here. He's still in meetings. He's out for at least three weeks, so we decided to use his roster spot. How long it takes, we'll go from there."

The Panthers made McCaffrey the NFL's highest-paid running back during the offseason with a four-year, $64 million extension that averages $16 million per year. Last year, he became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Mike Davis, who had one rushing attempt and caught eight passes for 74 yards against the Bucs, is projected to start Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

ESPN's David Newton contributed to this report.