Luke Kuechly's health again a headache for Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers dealt with the topic of Luke Kuechly‘s concussions before, but that doesn’t make it any easier this time.

The All-Pro linebacker departed the Thursday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles late in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium and was placed in the concussion protocol.

“Luke is a big part of what we do,” Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said after Carolina’s 28-23 loss.

Kuechly, 26, has now had to deal with concussion-related symptoms for the third year in a row.

The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year collided with Eagles offensive guard Brandon Brooks during a goal-line situation on what became Philadelphia’s first touchdown drive.

Kuechly, who is in his sixth season, sustained two concussions as a pro player prior to this season.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t have an update on Kuechly, but the player’s status was a big part of the postgame conversation.

“Hopefully it’s nothing too bad, he’ll get some rest and he’ll be back in no time,” Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short said.

Kuechly walked off the field with two members of the team’s medical staff. He stayed on the sideline for a few plays before he was taken away for additional evaluation.

Luke Mayo replaced Kuechly, who was credited with four tackles, as the middle linebacker. Mayo had three tackles.

“I didn’t even see the play or what happened or realized that someone was down before coach was telling me to get in,” Mayo said.

Kuechly has more tackles than any other player in the NFL since 2012.

Carolina tight end Ed Dickson said that Kuechly isn’t only the leader of the defense, but his presence has a wide-spreading impact.

“Whenever he goes down, it affects the whole team,” Dickson said.

Kuechly missed the first three games of the 2015 season, which ended with the Panthers advancing to the Super Bowl. He sat out the last six games a year ago, though he had been cleared to return by the last few weeks but the coaching staff decided it wasn’t worth it for a team that was then out of the playoff chase.

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