Whether you saw it at EverBank Field or on TV, the view was similar and the aftermath frightening.
With 68 seconds remaining in the first half of the game between the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly stuck his helmet into the chest of Jacksonville running back T.J. Yeldon. The angle was awkward, and Kuechly fell to the turf.
He stood, looking like a boxer who had no idea where he was. Muscle memory undoubtedly enabled him to get up before a whistle blew or the referee counted to 10. Kuechly went down again. Before he could stand for a second time, Carolina’s trainers were on him, almost as if they had him pinned. Kuechly did not return.
In a league in which violence lurks every week and, as Sunday attests, on every play, we always expect players to return.
Although Kuechly will go through the NFL’s concussion protocol before he’s cleared to play, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday that Kuechly looked good to him.
We invest players with qualities that make them seem superhuman. Then the season opens, and in a single day they take turns getting hurt. If I missed somebody I apologize. Collect the whole set.
It’s as if “suffered a concussion” has lost its meaning. Let’s put them all together and see.
In addition to Kuechly, Jacksonville’s Rashad Greene, the game’s leading receiver, suffered a concussion.
Cleveland quarterback, Charlotte resident and former Panther Josh McCown was whirled through the air like a ragdoll, and he suffered a concussion.
Baltimore tackle Eugene Monroe suffered a concussion.
Miami tight end Dion Sims was knocked unconscious attempting a diving catch, and suffered a concussion.
New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took a vicious hit, raising concerns he could have suffered a concussion, but returned to the game – two plays later.
New York Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, who left the Cleveland game on a spinal board and was transported to a hospital, but, thankfully, only suffered a concussion.
St. Louis cornerback Trumaine Johnson, Buffalo safety Corey Graham left their games with head injuries.
But not just brains are at risk.
Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles. He is out for the season.
Dallas receiver Dez Bryant is out four to six weeks with a broken bone in his right foot.
Washington receiver DeSean Jackson strained a hamstring and is likely to miss three to four weeks.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr injured his hand.
Browns linebacker Scott Solomon was carted off the field with an ankle injury.
New Orleans safety Rafael Bush tore a pectoral muscle.
Oakland safety Nate Allen injured a knee, possibly tearing his ACL.
Dallas defensive end Randy Gregory and San Diego guard D.J. Fluker are each out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain.
Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton will miss one to two weeks with a bruised knee.
Arizona running back Andre Ellington will miss a week or two with a sprained knee.
Jacksonville tackle Luke Joeckel injured his ankle against Carolina, returned, then left again.
Carolina rookie tackle Daryl Williams will miss two to four weeks with a knee injury.
New York cornerback Antonio Cromartie is listed week to week after a knee injury so gruesome it made you turn away.
Even an official, line judge Gary Arthur, broke his collarbone.
If a player going against your team was hurt, maybe you cheered. But injuries detract from the sport. Regardless of the team to which they belong, I want to watch Suggs rush, Bryant catch and Kuechly tackle.
You see Kuechly on TV, doing commercials and playing football. Since he became a Panther he’s started each of the 51 games they’ve played.
Some football players, players such as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton or Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, appear larger than life.
Perhaps because he’s so friendly, Kuechly appears smaller, a regular guy who plays a superior game.
But he’s Luke Kuechly. What does Luke Kuechly do? Let’s check. Luke Kuechly does not go down for the count.
Luke Kuechly plays.
When players come charging out of the tunnel at Bank of America Stadium a few minutes before 1 p.m. on Sunday, do you think Kuechly will be among them?
Only if he clears concussion protocol. If he fails, he’ll be a spectator.
That’s right. Kuechly will watch the game just like you and me. He won’t become indestructible again until he plays.