Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t mince words, or sigh, or crack a joke when it came to Luke Kuechly.
Instead, he looked reporters in the eye on Thursday, gripped the podium with both hands and said seriously that he agreed with head coach Ron Rivera’s decision to sit Luke Kuechly despite the linebacker’s clearance from the concussion protocol.
“Listen. It’s no denying the truth. At this particular point, our chance of making the playoffs is minimal,” he said. “Now. Luke is a person that could potentially be the greatest linebacker to ever play. Straight up. Watching him and Thomas (Davis) is like poetry in motion. Those guys just bring a different aspect of the game.
“I don’t think, for me, I would want to jeopardize that for a long-term issue to just bring him back.”
Luke is a person that could potentially be the greatest linebacker to ever play. Straight up. I don’t think, for me, I would want to jeopardize that for a long-term issue to just bring him back.
Quarterback Cam Newton on linebacker Luke Kuechly sitting out
Kuechly spent three games in the protocol before being cleared before Carolina’s “Monday Night Football” game at Washington. Still, Rivera held him out with Kuechly’s long-term health in mind. Rivera has not decided whether he will play Kuechly against the Falcons this Saturday.
“This is coming strictly from me,” said Newton. “I’m not talking for Ryan Vermillion (the Panthers’ head trainer), I’m not talking for coach, and I’m definitely not talking for Luke.
“But in the end, it’s coming from a person who also sustained a concussion. You can’t rush that.”
Newton missed one game this season while in the protocol after suffering a concussion against Atlanta in Week 4. A month later, he spoke publicly about the concussion for the first time, saying he considered the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury in regards to his son, Chosen, and his duties to him as a father.
“Concussions are real. It’s a real issue,” he said at the time. “And I am not taking anything for granted knowing that this is a very physical sport and it demands you to respect it on each and every snap.
“And if not, then you will be reminded.”
Newton doubled down on those statements on Thursday.
“Man, I been playing this game since I was 7 years old. Twenty years playing this game. And this one year I’ve been enlightened on just the understanding of a concussion,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hits. Big hits, tough hits. Wooziness. But nothing like a hit that occurred when I had the concussion.
“It’s nothing to play with, I can tell you that. And you see guys who have things stemming back from their concussion years removed from the game.”
It’s nothing to play with, I can tell you that.
Cam Newton, on concussions
Kuechly said on Wednesday, speaking to reporters for the first time, that he was not worried about long-term effects of concussions, such as CTE, but that he would respect his coach’s decision if Rivera were to continue to hold him out.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “There is a lot to be learned from it. There’s some studies that can say that but I’m not a doctor, and I trust what our guys say. I’m going to play football, that’s what I do. I’m not concerned with that stuff until somebody tells me otherwise.”
Newton, while in full support of Kuechly, seems to have a different perspective.
“This is something the NFL is saying that they’re serious about, that it’s a serious issue,” he said. “So, you know, he can take all the time he needs because the long-term goal for this team is to be in the playoffs and play for Super Bowls. And if our guy is not healthy, then who is that to blame?
“We want him to get back at 100 percent. We want him back out there. But at the end of the day, if he’s not ready to be out there, just take your time.”