Cam Newton said it makes no sense for the Panthers to play three-time all-pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly the remainder of the season following his second concussion in two years.
Newton said with Carolina’s chances of making the playoffs being “minimal,” Kuechly should to rest and prepare for future seasons when the team has a realistic chance to make the postseason. The Panthers (6-8) host the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday and close the regular season at Tampa Bay on Jan. 1.
“Luke is a person that could potentially to be the greatest linebacker that has ever played — straight up,” Newton said. “… I don’t think, for me, I would want to jeopardize that for a long, long-term issue just to bring him back.”
Newton and Kuechly are co-captains.
The 25-year-old Kuechly, the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2013 and four-time Pro Bowl selection, has missed Carolina’s last four games due to the concussion he suffered on Nov. 17.
He has had two concussions in the last two seasons, causing him to miss seven games in all.
“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%. 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.”
Newton suffered a concussion earlier this season in a 48-33 loss to the Falcons. He missed the following week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It appears coach Ron Rivera is leaning toward holding Kuechly out for the final two games.