By Nick Shook
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In the aftermath of Luke Kuechly‘s latest concussion, and his extended time away from the field, the opinions of the linebacker’s next move have run the gamut. Perhaps none, though, carry more weight than that of Kuechly’s superstar teammate.
“Luke is a person that could potentially to be the greatest linebacker that has ever played — straight up,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said Thursday. “… I don’t think, for me, I would want to jeopardize that for a long, long-term issue just to bring him back.”
The Panthers are essentially out of contention, needing a near miracle that goes well beyond the return of their best defender. Newton alluded to that with “just to bring him back,” knowing it isn’t one of those desperate scenarios in which Kuechly’s return would get them over the hump.
“He can take all the time he needs because the long term goal for this team is to be in the playoffs and play for Super Bowls,” Newton said. “… We want him to get back to 100 percent. We want him to be back out there, but at the end of the day if he’s not ready to be back out there he has to take his time.”
The nature of concussions make Kuechly’s return a tough one. Head injuries are rarely ever the same, and while the concussion protocol has steps in place to ensure a safe return, symptoms can linger. Kuechly was cleared but didn’t play against Washington, and considering his concussion history, it’s realistic to wonder if we won’t see him again in 2016. With the support of Newton, it might be for the best.