Panthers LB Luke Kuechly at team meetings, in good spirits despite concussion protocol

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Friday, October 13, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was at Bank of America Stadium on Friday attending normal team meetings less than 12 hours after being placed in the concussion protocol for the third time in as many years.

Kuechly was placed in the protocol after running into a Philadelphia guard on a run play with just under six minutes left in the first half of Thursday night's 28-23 lossto the Eagles.

Coach Ron Rivera said Kuechly remained in the protocol on Friday and that he would not comment further on the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year until after Kuechly is cleared.

Rivera gave no timetable for when that might be, but defensive coordinator Steve Wilks talked to Kuechly on Friday morning and said "he's perfectly fine in the conversation I had.''

While this is no indication that Kuechly could get out of the protocol in time for the next game at Chicago on Oct. 22, Wilks added, "It's always encouraging, not just from a standpoint of Luke getting back on the field, but with his health. It's good to know he was feeling a lot better today, in good spirits, and being his old self. I'm excited about that.''

Linebacker Ben Jacobs said it felt like a normal day for Kuechly.

"He was in the meetings. Looks good. Looks healthy. Good spirits,'' Jacobs said. "Normal day. Like, Luke's fine, guys. He's good. He's had normal meetings. Just a normal day after a game.''

Rivera said David Mayo and Jacobs would replace Kuechly should the four-time Pro Bowl selection miss games.

Mayo replaced Kuechly on Thursday night. He said he wasn't aware Kuechly was in the protocol until after the game.

Kuechly left and didn't return after his left shoulder and neck collided with Philadelphia's Brandon Brooks on a second-and-4 play from the Carolina 6.

Kuechly grabbed his shoulder as he ran off the field for a key third-down play. After a few minutes with team trainer Ryan Vermillion and the team doctor, he jogged to the locker room for evaluation.

Many of the Carolina players weren't aware Kuechly was in the protocol until after the game. Quarterback Cam Newton said he played most of the game not knowing Kuechly was out.

"We need Luke,'' Newton said.

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short said he was praying for Kuechly.

"Hopefully, it's nothing too bad, he'll get some rest and be back in no time,'' he said.

It wasn't nearly as dramatic as last season, when Kuechly was carted off the field in tears in a prime-time game against the New Orleans Saints after suffering his second concussion in two seasons.

Kuechly missed three games in the 2015 season after suffering a concussion in the opener at Jacksonville. He was in the concussion protocol for three games last season after the Saints game and was held out the final three games as a precaution with Carolina out of playoff contention.

Asked about long-term concerns for Kuechly on Friday, Rivera avoided the topic.

"I have no idea," he said. "I have not talked with the doctors. I have not talked with Luke about this. I will eventually, but we're going to wait till he's no longer in the protocol before I say anything about this."