Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly was held out of most of practice Wednesday after he was slow to get up from a pileup in a drill.
Coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t know exactly what caused the medical staff’s concern, but he endorsed the precaution of telling Kuechly to sit: “They were just being overly cautious, [and] thought, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re gonna be smart — it’s a little bit hot today — so they moved on.’ ”
Kuechly has sustained three concussions in his seven-season NFL career, the most recent in 2017 — 2018 was the first season in the past four in which he was able to play all 16 regular-season games.
“He wanted to go back in. I guess that’s why he wouldn’t take his helmet off,” Rivera said. “Once he settled down” he agreed with the decision.
Rivera said it was too soon to speculate if Kuechly would practice Thursday.
One of the open questions of this training camp is how the Panthers will fill the secondary and, particularly, the nickel cornerback spot. Safety Rashaan Gaulden got a look there Wednesday. He did some of that in college at Tennessee, and Rivera likes the linebacker-like physicality Gaulden can provide.
“Last year he showed us that he can play in the box [up close where defense is as much run support as pass coverage]. He’s a physical, downhill player,” Rivera said. “We use a big nickel a lot, and if this is a guy who can show he can do it, we’d sure like to use him.”
Rivera said fans should expect experimentation in the secondary in preseason games.
“The coaches are trying to pair up players,”, Rivera said. “You’re going to see a lot of [different] combinations out there. We’ve got some holes that we want to make sure to fill and some questions to be answered.”
A word of warning
Rivera said he’s reminded a couple of players who aren’t yet secure in making the roster they’re costing themselves if they don’t treat special teams assignments as a priority.
“They’re being judged on their entire body of work, not just their position, not just their side of the ball,” Rivera said. “It’s vital these guys understand if they want to impress us, impress us on special teams.”
▪ Tight end Greg Olsen made a one-handed, diving touchdown catch off a throw from quarterback Cam Newton that felt like an “I’m back” moment following surgery to address a broken foot.
▪ Offensive guard Greg Van Roten flattened linebacker Jared Norris with a block, then flexed. Newton was so excited he jumped on Van Roten’s back in celebration.
▪ The Panthers worked out some free agent offensive linemen Wednesday. General manager Marty Hurney said last week depth at offensive line is always crucial because of the synergy required of that unit.