Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly missed his third consecutive game, Sunday’s 28-16 victory over the San Diego Chargers, while in the concussion protocol. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved. .
According to head coach Ron Rivera, and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, Kuechly has been on the sidelines, charting calls and specific downs and distance, as well as situationals.
“It’s a part of keeping him engaged,” said Rivera. “It’s been good for him and it’s been good for the guys on the sideline.”
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Rivera said Kuechly has especially pulled aside A.J. Klein during defensive breaks.
Klein is filling in for Kuechly at middle linebacker, but Shaq Thompson has also seen a few snaps there, including on Sunday. Thompson pulled down an interception while at middle linebacker against the Chargers, in just his second game taking repetitions there.
“I thought (Thompson) improved yesterday for us in that role,” said McDermott. “That was a huge play for us as momentum was kind of wavering at that point. ... He stepped up.”
Last week, as the Panthers fell to the Seahawks 40-7, Kuechly paced the sideline, fuming, and shouted at referees and toward Rivera. Rivera said Kuechly disagreed with a particular call from the officials, causing the outburst.
Kuechly’s energy and knowledge of the game have been crucial as the defense rallies without him, McDermott said.
“Yeah, Superman, carrying a clipboard,” McDermott joked. “Luke really embodies what we’re all about – team player, unselfish, he’ll do anything to help the team win. Obviously he couldn’t play so he’s on the sideline writing down the calls, helping the guys on the sideline. Bringing ‘juice’ as we call it.”
But is he another defensive coordinator?
McDermott grinned and rocked on his heels.
“My wife will be happy,” he said. “I got compared to Luke!”