Potential, and some actual spoilers for The Walking Dead past this point.

When The Walking Dead returns for its seventh season, we're going to be losing at least one cast member (and maybe more) to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) barbed-wire baseball bat, Lucille. But that might not be all Negan is taking from Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln): footage shown from the premiere strongly intimates that Alexandria's leader is about to lose a hand.

In the comics, Grimes has been missing his right hand for a good, long while. Creator Robert Kirkman wrote the dismemberment at the hands of the villainous Governor (played by David Morrissey on the show), but when it came time for Rick to lose his digits on screen, the show balked.

There were good reasons to do so too. Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) had already lost a hand in Season 1, and had recently returned as the -- ahem -- right-hand man of the Governor, complete with a sweet-looking knife appendage in Season 3. In the same season, Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) lost a leg to a walker bite. So Rick losing a hand as well would probably have been overkill.

Lincoln, though, didn't think so. He campaigned to have Rick's hand cut off, same as the iconic scene in the comics, but at the time, at least, the issue was more with the tech, than the plot.

"With Hershel's leg it was easy because you could frame it out," executive producer Greg Nicotero told TVGuide.com over the phone. "With Michael Rooker, when we had Merle, we had to build that elaborate arm prosthetic, just to hide his hand. We revealed it a couple of times."

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It might seem "easy" to remove a hand digitally, but when you're dealing with the lead character on the show, and shooting in real locations, there are serious issues to deal with before sticking on the green screen sock. For example, The Walking Dead shoots a ton of outside scenes, particularly in the woods. Given the level of greenery, you can't use a green-screen hand. A blue-screen hand is also potentially out because -- and you may know this -- the sky is also outside, and blue.


That said, we're four seasons on from both Hershel's amputation and Merle's handy return. And at least given the scene from the premiere shown at the show's New York Comic Con panel, it looks like Negan may have subbed in for the Governor.

In the sneak peek, Rick challenges Negan, saying, "I'm going to kill you," before Negan takes Rick's axe, asks him about losing his "right-hand man," and drags the former sheriff into his trailer. The clues are not that subtle. Still, even with the strong impression that Rick is saying bye-bye to his shooting hand, is the tech now even possible?

"I would say that we've mastered that," Nicotero said, when asked if his effects team would be up to the challenge. "With techniques today... it could be done."

To misquote Jurassic Park, just because something can be done, should it be done? And should fans start worrying about Rick's ability to pet two dogs simultaneously?

"Well... I would just say from a technical aspect it could be done. I'm not saying to worry," Nicotero said laughing, before ominously continuing, "or not worry."

The Walking Dead returns, with or without Rick's hand, to AMC on Sunday at 9/8c.