The Carolina Panthers Panthers may be without the hottest rookie receiver in the NFL this Sunday in Green Bay.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina’s first round pick from May’s draft, suffered what Panthers coach Ron Rivera called a “mild concussion” in Sunday’s 37-37 tie with Cincinnati and missed practice Wednesday. Benjamin’s status for the Green Bay game remains unclear.
“He came in on Monday and he had a little bit of a headache,” Rivera said. “They looked at him and they feel he has a mild concussion, so they put him in the (concussion) protocol obviously and we’re going to go from there.”
Rivera indicated the injury occurred on a second-quarter, 7-yard completion from Newton when Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict hit Benjamin in the head and neck area. Burfict, who Wednesday was fined $25,000 for twisting the ankles of Newton and tight end Greg Olsen on touchdown scores last week, was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play.
With a slight wobble, Benjamin walked to the sideline where he was evaluated by a team doctor and athletic trainer. The FOX broadcast shows Benjamin pointing to his eye and face, shaking his head and walking along the sideline following the hit.
Benjamin returned to the game after sitting out for two plays. Rivera said Benjamin was allowed to return to the game because he passed the in-game concussion test.
Benjamin is first among all NFL rookie receivers in receiving yards (416), touchdowns (four) and second in receptions with 31.
This is the second known concussion Benjamin has suffered in the past year. He received a concussion in November as a redshirt sophomore at Florida State in the first half of the Seminoles’ game against Wake Forest. He did not return to the game but played the following week.
Should Benjamin be unable to play Sunday, the Panthers would have Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Brenton Bersin and Philly Brown as their four receivers. At 6-foot-5, Benjamin is the tallest of the receivers and the Panthers’ best big-play threat.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Rivera said. “When you go and look at it when he wasn’t in there Bersin was in there, Philly Brown was in there. We’ve got a lot of faith in them. We feel our tight ends are weapons. We feel good about the guys who are playing.”
Rivera said Burfict’s hit on Benjamin was part of an “aggressive play” but wouldn’t call it dirty.
But Burfict didn’t escape the game without consequences.
Rivera didn’t comment on the fine, saying it’s a league matter, and Newton said he wouldn’t look back to Cincinnati but only forward to Green Bay.
Monday, Olsen called for Burfict to be suspended by the league. The eight-year tight end noted Burfict had been fined several times in the past and it had not affected his play. The league did not agree with Olsen.
“On Monday I addressed how I felt about the whole thing. That was my reaction to what had gone on and what was pretty evident,” Olsen said. “Let the chips fall where they may and let people who are much higher up the ladder than me make the decisions. I’ve been on to Green Bay now for two days.”