Carolina Panthers left tackle Michael Oher’s future has been a question since the veteran of “The Blind Side” fame was lost for the season with a concussion.
But Panthers offensive lineman Trai Turner said Oher plans to play in 2017 after missing the final 13 games this season. A source close to Oher confirmed Thursday that Oher expects to return next season.
The Panthers have said little about Oher’s condition or future outlook since he entered the concussion protocol Sept. 30. When the team placed Oher on injured reserve two months later, coach Ron Rivera says there wasn’t enough time left in the season to work Oher back into shape.
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Turner has stayed in touch with Oher, and said Oher has never mentioned the idea of retiring.
“I think he’ll play again,” Turner said after Thursday’s practice. “He never said or gave me an indication that he wouldn’t.”
Oher, 30, signed a three-year contract extension in June worth $21.6 million, including a guaranteed $9.5 million. He is due nearly $13 million over the next three seasons.
Oher, whose rags-to-riches story inspired a best-selling book and 2009 movie, has not spoken to reporters since September.
But in October he addressed speculation he might retire by firing off a sharply-worded Instagram post.
“Sheesh who in the Hell said I was walking away from this great game...born broke homeless did every hustle there is known to man,” Oher wrote. “After I signed my 1st check I’ve been playing this game only because I love it.”
Oher began experiencing headaches after a Week 2 win against San Francisco, according to a source. But he played the following week against Minnesota, allowing three sacks and picking up a holding penalty.
The Observer reported Oher had experienced sensitivity to light, as well as issues involving his vestibular ocular system, which is responsible for integrating vision, movement and balance.
Oher visited a highly regarded concussion clinic in Pittsburgh twice before going on IR.
A healthy Oher should boost a Panthers offensive line that has shuffled starters most of the season because of injuries to Oher, Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil and right tackle Daryl Williams.
But Turner was more interested in discussing Oher’s health than what his return would mean from a football standpoint.
“That’s a long time from now,” Turner said. “I’m not even thinking about football for Mike right now. I just want him to get healthy so he can be feeling like himself.”