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Christian McCaffrey joins Panthers teammates at minicamp (pics)

Christian McCaffrey, the standout former Stanford running back selected by the Carolina Panthers with the eighth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, officially joined his teammates on the practice field during minicamp for the first time Thursday morning.

Photographic evidence of McCaffrey in his Panthers gear began trickling onto Twitter as soon as he made an appearance.

McCaffrey has been unable to practice due to an NFL rule put in place in 1990 by the league to help draftees complete their studies if so desired. Since Stanford’s academic calendar is on a quarter system, McCaffrey wasn’t allowed to officially join the team for its offseason program until graduation ceremonies were held Wednesday.

The rule has been widely criticized in the past, and it’s not surprising members of the Panthers hammered it given McCaffrey’s mandatory absence from OTAs and other offseason activities thus far. Head coach Ron Rivera articulated his issues with the rule and tight end Greg Olsen completely slammed it, calling it “just backwards,” among other criticisms.

“That rationale is just not up to date with how things operate,” Olsen said. “In today’s world, a kid makes a decision, he moves on to another step of his career and leaves school early. He’s not even enrolled; he never even started the last quarter or whatever they’re on, because obviously he was training for the combine and the draft and whatnot. It just seems like a very antiquated rule that definitely needs to be revisited.

“At the end of the day, these kids are being hurt. Here’s a young kid looking to come in and become acclimated with a new team and join the NFL and make a huge step in his life. Because of something completely out of his control, he’s forbidden from being with us.”

But with that all in the past — at least for McCaffrey (there have been discussions about altering the rule, although there’s reportedly “no momentum” to do just that) — it’s time for 21-year-old to engage in a bid at making up for lost time, as Thursday marks the Panthers’ final day of practice until training camp.