Inside the Panthers

Ron Rivera says Carolina Panthers aren’t ready to shut down Luke Kuechly for season

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was ruled out Saturday and was on the sideline for the Panthers’ 28-16 win on Sunday.
Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was ruled out Saturday and was on the sideline for the Panthers’ 28-16 win on Sunday. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly missed his third consecutive game while in the NFL concussion protocol, but Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said no decision has been made about shutting him down for the season.

“No. I’ll go along with what the doctors tell me,” Rivera said. “That’s the truth of the matter.”

Kuechly was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against San Diego, but was ruled out Saturday and was on the sideline for the Panthers’ 28-16 victory. Rivera indicated Kuechly had not been cleared by an independent neurologist, the final step in the protocol.

“Each time, whoever he sees has to be comfortable enough to allow him to take the next step. That much I know,” Rivera said. “What was said and what was decided, I couldn’t tell you.”

Kuechly was injured Nov. 17 when a collision with Saints running back Tim Hightower left him sobbing as he was carted from the field. The 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, he also missed three games last season when he sustained a concussion Week 1 at Jacksonville.

Kuechly’s status for next Monday’s game at Washington will be determined this week.

A.J. Klein, who started at middle linebacker, said Kuechly is a leader whether he’s playing or not.

“That’s who Luke is. He’s always working to help other guys out,” Klein said. “If he’s not playing, that’s what he’s doing. If he is playing, he’s doing it on the field. So nothing in his mindset has changed.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spoke with the media following the team's 28-16 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Newton stressed the team must keep pushing to score.

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