CHARLOTTE, NC - Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly collapsed to the ground after a helmet-leading tackle on Sunday, and it was a moment of concern for Panthers nation. The team noticed concussion-like symptoms right away.
"He was able to get into the locker room on his own," said Ron Rivera, Panthers head coach. "He went through the protocol immediately and, like I said, I saw him today and he looked like Luke to me."
Rivera said Kuechly has made immediate progress since the injury, but he's adamant about following the NFL's concussion protocol rules, and said his coaches won't be the ones who decide when Kuechly plays next.
"As each step gets cleared, each hurdle gets cleared, then we'll begin to put the player on the field," Rivera said. "Until then, he's not going to play. We'll follow the protocol as the doctors dictate it, and that's just the way it is."
The team will include Kuechly in its game plan for week two, but at the same time the Panthers will prepare for the possibility that he's unavailable.
"We have depth on our team, on our defense," said Charles Tillman, Panthers cornerback. "When one guy goes down, it's the next guy up. We all have that role. If I go down, the next guy's up."
The league's progress in concussion safety might make the next game more difficult for Kuechly and the team, but Rivera said the percautions help much more than they hurt.
"We're learning," Rivera said. "We're trying to understand more, and what it takes. I think for anybody to assume we knew thirty years ago is unfair."