Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly left Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter and is being evaluated for a concussion, according to the Charlotte Observer‘s Joe Person.
Kuechly is the NFL‘s premier middle linebacker with four Pro Bowl nods and three All-Pro First Team selections to his credit.
He has continued to be the linchpin of Carolina’s defense this season, entering Thursday with 42 total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.
The former Boston College standout was a model of consistency by starting all 16 games in each of his first three NFL seasons, but remaining healthy has been far more difficult in recent years.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Kuechly was forced to miss action as a concussion landed him on the shelf for three games.
Despite that, Kuechly enjoyed a huge year that saw him register 118 tackles, four interceptions, one sack and one touchdown en route to leading the Panthers to a Super Bowl berth.
Kuechly picked up where he left off over the 2016 season’s first 10 games, but a scary incident in a 23-20 Thursday Night Football win against the New Orleans Saints in Week 11 sent him back to the injured list.
The 2012 first-round pick left the field and was evaluated for a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit and was carted off the field in tears. That caused him to miss the remainder of the season, though he was cleared entering 2017.
Now that Kuechly is ailing once again, however, Carolina will have to dip into its reserves at the linebacker position, which is a spot where it lacks quality depth.
The top candidate to take Kuechly’s place if he lands on the shelf is David Mayo, who doesn’t have much experience or bring anywhere close to the same skill set to the table that Kuechly does.
Being without him would adversely impact the Panthers against both the run and the pass, so getting him back as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance.