When middle linebacker Luke Kuechly made the trip west with the Carolina Panthers, there was hope the perennial Pro Bowler might be available for the second game of the 10-day trip.
But Kuechly remains in the concussion protocol, and it seems unlikely he’ll play Sunday at Seattle.
Compounding matters: Starting safety Kurt Coleman has joined Kuechly in the protocol.
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Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Coleman complained of post-concussion symptoms following Sunday’s 35-32 loss at Oakland. He becomes the seventh Panthers player to be placed in the protocol since the start of the regular season.
Rivera said Michael Griffin would start for Coleman in the likely event he’s out Sunday.
Rivera was at a loss to explain the spate of concussions. But he wondered aloud whether the restrictions on full-padded practices — in place since the new labor deal was struck in 2011 — have played a part.
“I’m not sure if it all goes back to the way things are in terms of preparation for the season, starting with how limited in OTAs, minicamps and then the hitting in training camp,” Rivera said. “Who knows? I really don’t. And it would be unfair for me to say so.”
Kuechly attended Wednesday’s practice at San Jose State and went through stretching. But he was a spectator once the drills started.
“Another step on the protocol,” Rivera said. “That’s all I can tell you about that.”
Kuechly is recovering from the concussion he sustained Nov. 17 against New Orleans — caused by a collision with Saints running back Tim Hightower that left Kuechly sobbing and trying to catch his breath while he was carted from the field.
The Panthers had two other starters sidelined Wednesday – right tackle Daryl Williams (foot) and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (shoulder).
Benjamin came down hard on his shoulder in the loss to the Raiders. He threw his helmet and yelled at coaches when trainers pulled him from the game to check his shoulder.
Backup defensive end Ryan Delaire also was out with a knee issue. Defensive tackle Kawann Short (back) and wideout Philly Brown (shoulder) were limited.