The three-time Pro Bowler was hurt as he tried to tackle Tim Hightower and Hightower's helmet struck him first in the facemask and then possibly the chest. Kuechly laid on the ground for a while, then sat up and appeared visibly shaken and disoriented as the cart picked him up to go to the locker room with 4:41 left.
Kuechly was in tears as he rode off toward the locker room as fans screamed "Luuuuke!"
Those tears were chilling. https://t.co/ccyNGU999q— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) November 18, 2016
He missed three games with a concussion last season.
Kuechly's injury was the one of several key ones Thursday night, a list that included Carolina two-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalil (shoulder) and New Orleans running back Mark Ingram (possible concussion) in the third quarter.
Kalil had missed two straight games with an injury to his right shoulder. It wasn't immediately clear which shoulder was injured Thursday.
Wow Luke Kuechly carted off the field. He was in tears. #abc11— Ngozi_ABC11 (@Ngozi_ABC11) November 18, 2016
Ingram was injured that quarter on a 13-yard run when he collided with Kurt Coleman as he went down. He laid on the ground for a few seconds before walking off slowly. Later, he headed to the locker room with someone else carrying his helmet to be evaluated for a possible concussion.
In addition, Carolina cornerback Leonard Johnson sustained a chest injury, while defensive end Mario Addison left after limping off with a right foot injury early in the fourth quarter.
Earlier in the game, Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin left briefly but returned after injuring his left shoulder.
Benjamin was been taken to the locker room early in the second quarter after landing awkwardly on his shoulder following a 19-yard reception from Cam Newton. He returned to the game with about 5:30 left in the second quarter after missing one offensive series.
Cam Newton threw for 192 yards and a touchdown and the Carolina Panthers held off New Orleans' fourth- quarter rally to beat the Saints 23-20.
Newton said w/ all injuries tonight "seemed like the Grim Reaper walking out their tonight." Said he's praying for Kuechly. #abc11— Ngozi_ABC11 (@Ngozi_ABC11) November 18, 2016
Newton was 14 of 33 and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. to help the Panthers (4-6) win for third time in three games and pull even with the Saints for third place in the NFC South.
Jonathan Stewart also ran for a touchdown and Graham Gano had three field goals.