[UPDATE]: Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has since been diagnosed with a concussion and has entered the league’s protocol, the franchise has formally announced.
Luke Kuechly’s bouts with concussions are well-documented, which is why Thursday night’s turn of events seems likely to be extra debilitating for he and the Carolina Panthers.
In the first half of his team’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Kuechly was coming fast on a blitz when he took a hard elbow to the head and neck area from guard Brandon Brooks.
The four-time Pro-Bowler left the field immediately after being hit before gingerly jogging to the locker room. Despite the best efforts of ESPN’s television crew to learn any information on Kuechly, viewers were left in the dark even as the Panthers middle linebacker remained in the locker room after half time.
Shortly following the beginning of the third quarter, the Panthers announced that Kuechly was being evaluated for a concussion.
Luke Kuechly is being evaluated for a concussion.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 13, 2017
Kuechly suffered his first concussion in the 2015 season opener. His season was cut short a year ago after he endured another concussion in Week 11 – one that famously brought tears to his eyes as he was being carted off the field.
At 26, Kuechly is firmly in the prime of his career. He came into Thursday night’s action leading Carolina with 42 tackles, 16 more than any other defender on the roster. He’s also the only Panther yet to register an interception during the 2017 season.
Despite the presence of star quarterback Cam Newton, defense has long been Carolina’s calling card. Can Ron Rivera’s team withstand the absence of a player like Kuechly to remain contenders in a wide-open NFC? Hopefully, Kuechly returns to the lineup soon enough that we don’t need to find out.