Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly continues to progress through the NFL’s concussion protocol, although it still seems unlikely he’ll play this week.
Kuechly wore a helmet and participated in individual drills Thursday during the portion of practice open to the media. When the Panthers defense started team drills, Kuechly put a green cover over his jersey and joined the scout team.
The Panthers officially listed Kuechly as a non-participant on the injury report, although coach Ron Rivera was encouraged that Kuechly took another step forward.
Kuechly appears to be in the third stage of the protocol, which allows players to participate in non-contact, football-specific drills.
Kuechly, who was injured last week in a loss to Philadelphia, would need to return to full participation in practice before a team physician and independent neurologist could to clear him to play in a game.
Rivera was noncommittal on Kuechly’s status for Sunday’s game at Chicago. But given the caution the Panthers have used with him previously, chances are slim that Kuechly will play against the Bears.
Kuechly missed nine games over the past two seasons as a result of two concussions. He was cleared after three games in each instance, although the Panthers opted to hold Kuechly out of the final three games last season.
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis indicated Kuechly’s most recent concussion was not as severe as his previous two, and his recovery timeline would seem to support that.
“Just understanding this situation is not like the other situations, from my understanding,” Davis said. “Seeing him bounce back as quickly as he has, I think he’s definitely in a good place right now. Just excited to see him walking around and healthy.”