CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Saturday’s news is exactly the reason why NFL head coaches don’t want to play their top players during pre-season games.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule announced Saturday during a news conference with media that kicker Zane Gonzalez suffered a long-term injury and Sam Darnold is expected to miss a significant amount of time following injuries in Friday night’s final pre-season contest.

Darnold, who was expected to be Baker Mayfield’s backup at quarterback, suffered a high-ankle sprain and was carted off the field in the second half Friday night against the Buffalo Bills at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers won 21-0.

While Rhule did not give a precise timetable, he said the injury was significant, that it will ‘take time,’ and is unsure how long he’d be out. Rhule said Darnold will seek further tests after his initial MRI.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez suffered a groin injury while warming up on the sidelines in the 3rd quarter Friday night. Rhule called the injury long-term, coming short of calling it a season-ending injury.

Panthers QB Corral tore Lisfranc during Patriots game, Rhule says

Last week Mayfield was named the team’s starting QB, beating out Darnold in a preseason battle that became the focus leading up to the start of the season. Mayfield was acquired this offseason after his former team, the Cleveland Browns, signed beleaguered Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson. Watson has since been suspended for ten games following an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

Tuesday is the final day for NFL teams to make roster cuts. With Darnold’s injury, PJ Walker slides into the role of backup QB. Rookie Matt Corral is most likely out for the season following a Lisfranc injury in Week 1 of the preseason.

Panthers McCaffrey Weighs In On Preseason QB Battle

The Panthers open the season on September 11th against the Cleveland Browns at Bank of America Stadium.