Did he or didn’t he?
That’s the question Panthers fans and NFL followers were asking Sunday after confusion emerged as to whether middle linebacker Luke Kuechly actually had a concussion Thursday night in Carolina’s loss to Philadelphia.
But a short time later Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond tweeted: “Luke Kuechly is still in the concussion protocol. He has not cleared and his status has not changed.”
Schefter reported Kuechly hurt his neck and shoulder on the collision with Eagles guard Brandon Brooks, but did not sustain a brain injury. That suggests the Panthers held Kuechly out as a precaution because of his concussion history.
But team sources told the Observer that while Kuechly was in good spirits Friday at Bank of America Stadium, they’re proceeding as if Kuechly had a concussion and are waiting to see if he’s cleared.
Players are scheduled to return to the facility Tuesday to begin preparations for Chicago.
Based on a statement the NFL provided to the Observer, it’s possible Kuechly could be in the protocol without having sustained a concussion.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy, speaking generally and not about Kuechly specifically, said in an email: “These types of injuries are an evolving process with evaluations conducted at multiple times. Medical personnel are always going to be cautious and they will place a player in the concussion protocol if they believe it is in the best interest of the player.”
This would not be the first time the Panthers have exercised caution with Kuechly, who’s missed time with concussions each of the past two seasons.
After Kuechly was cleared to play late last season, the team decided to hold Kuechly out the final three games with the Panthers all but mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration.
And whether Kuechly sustained a concussion against the Eagles doesn’t change the process in determining when he can return this time. An independent neurologist will still have to clear Kuechly before he can resume practicing or playing in games.
Kuechly, who missed nine games because of concussions the past two seasons, was hurt on a LeGarrette Blount running play with about five minutes left in the first half Thursday.
Knifing into the backfield, Kuechly was knocked down by a pulling Brooks, whose shoulder struck the left side of Kuechly’s helmet.
Kuechly was slow to get up and eventually walked to the sideline with the medical staff, which examined him on the sideline and appeared to check the range of motion in his neck.
Kuechly then ran into the tunnel to the locker room and the Panthers later announced he was being evaluated for a concussion. A short time after that, the team announced Kuechly was in the protocol.
Several teammates – including linebacker David Mayo, who replaced Kuechly in the lineup – didn’t realize Kuechly was in the protocol until reporters told them after the game.
Kuechly took part in his positions meetings Friday, and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said Kuechly seemed “perfectly fine” during Wilks’ conversation with him.
The disagreement on whether Kuechly had a concussion misses the bigger point.
The team’s medical staff, criticized last season for its handling of quarterback Cam Newton in a Week 1 loss at Denver, saw enough signs of a possible concussion to shut Kuechly down and place him in the protocol.
Given Kuechly’s history and the mounting evidence linking concussions to degenerative brain disease, their decision should be applauded.