Inside the Panthers

Panthers’ Luke Kuechly edges forward in concussion protocol; Benjamin leaves practice

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is progressing in the concussion protocol after being injured on Thursday against Philadelphia.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is progressing in the concussion protocol after being injured on Thursday against Philadelphia. AP

The Carolina Panthers received a good bit of news Wednesday concerning one of their injured defensive players, while another one edged forward in the concussion protocol.

Safety Kurt Coleman, who’s missed two games with a sprained knee ligament, returned to practice and could be on track to play Sunday at Chicago. When Coleman was injured against New England, the Panthers said he could be out as long as a month.

Coleman was listed as a limited participant, but Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Coleman moved well and took all his scheduled reps.

“It’s just going to be a day-to-day evaluation,” Coleman said this week. “But I’m excited with where things are headed.”

Meanwhile, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly took a step forward in the concussion protocol by riding a stationary bike during the portion of practice open to the media.

The league’s five-step process for players in the protocol calls for a period of rest and recovery, followed by a second stage during which they can begin light aeorobic activity.

If Kuechly feels good and symptoms do not reemerge or worsen, he’d move on to the final three stages:

▪  aerobic exercise, with strength training;

▪  non-contact, football-specific work;

▪  full return to practice.

An independent neurologist would have to clear Kuechly before he resumes practicing fully, and also would have to sign off before Kuechly plays in a game.

Given where Kuechly is in the protocol, it seems unlikely he would be cleared before Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

While Kuechly rode the bike, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin – left practice early with a knee injury. His status for the rest of the week is unclear.

Three other players missed practice – running back Fozzy Whittaker (out several weeks with an ankle injury), safety Demetrious Cox (ankle) and offensive tackle John Theus (concussion).

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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