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Kuechly entered the protocol after taking a hit around the neck area in the Week 6 loss to the Eagles and missed last week’s game at the Bears.
Kuechly did participate on a limited basis during the final practice before the Bears game and traveled with the team to Chicago but was ruled out on the injury report. This week, he participated fully in practice throughout and is officially listed as questionable on the injury report.
As the clock ticked under the five-minute mark in the second quarter, after Kuechly was blocked hard on a LeGarrette Blount 2-yard run down to the 1, Kuechly slightly slumped in the middle of the field before heading to the cheap Panthers jerseys sideline under his own power. Kuechly appeared to be flexing his shoulder and neck area while talking to head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion on the sideline, but he soon headed to the locker room and never returned.
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Kuechly paced the Panthers with 10 tackles based on coaches’ film review and leads the team with 88 tackles this season.
Coleman has missed the last three games with a knee injury. He returned to practice last week but wasn’t quite ready to play against Chicago. His presence in the back end, along with Kuechly in the middle of the defense, is hugely beneficial for Carolina’s defensive synergy.
Communication is the key to making that happen. And that’s where Kuechly and Coleman come in as leaders who get everyone aligned properly to execute their assignments.
Kuechly has been in the concussion protocol since leaving the Thursday Night Football contest against the Eagles. The hope is that Kuechly can play when the Panthers kick off two straight Sundays of division play next week at Tampa Bay.
Kuechly suffered a concussion on Thursday Night Football last season in Week 11 and didn’t play the rest of the season. The Panthers, now 4-2, have 10 days before their next game October 22 at the Chicago Bears.
“Kurt is the leader of secondary,” Davis said. “He really provides that comfort level. To have him back was huge, to have Luke back was huge. I think it really spoke to the performance we had today having those guys back on the field.”
A look at the defensive stat sheet revealed two names at the top: Coleman with nine stops and Kuechly with eight. Each of them also contributed in the takeaway department, with Kuechly intercepting a pass and Coleman recovering a fumble.
It certainly showed on the second play of the third quarter, when Kuechly read quarterback Brian Hoyer’s intentions and picked off a pass over the middle for tight end George Kittle.
Kuechly traveled to the West Coast for games at the Raiders and Seahawks but remained in the concussion protocol throughout the 10-day trip. He was injured in the second half of the Panthers’ last home game, a November 17 victory over the Saints.