CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly has been placed in the NFL's concussion protocol and his status for the team's Nov. 27 game against Oakland is uncertain.
Coach Ron Rivera updated Kuechly's status on Friday and said that the linebacker has no other known injuries.
The 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was carted off the field in an emotional moment during the fourth quarter of Carolina's 23-20 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night. Kuechly appeared to be gasping for breath as he was helped to the cart, and tears rolled down his face. Players from both sides came over to offer their well wishes to Kuechly.
Kuechly spent 34 days last season in the concussion protocol and missed three games.
Rivera described Kuechly's second known career concussion "concerning," but quickly added "I don't want to get into the speculation of all of that. I'm not the expert."
On Friday, Kuechly's teammate and good friend Thomas Davis posted a picture on his Instagram of a smiling Kuechly giving the thumbs-up sign and wrote "Luke wanted me to let you guys know that he's doing fine and thanks for your prayers!!"
There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Kuechly in the Charlotte community, where he is immensely popular, as well as around the country.
NBA two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte and is a longtime Panthers fan, posted on Twitter "Keep your head up #59! Nobody plays the game harder than you my man. Heal up Quick! #KeepPounding."
"Here's a guy that's a warrior and he loves the game," Rivera said. "It was an emotional time for his teammates because his teammates know how important he is. He's a very important player for us, as are all of our players. I appreciate the outpouring (of support), I really do. He means a lot to organization and this community as well. I get that part."
Kuechly was injured with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter when he collided with Saints running back Tim Hightower.
The five-year NFL veteran's left leg appeared to awkwardly buckle just before he hit Hightower. At that point Hightower's helmet hit Kuechly under the facemask and in the upper region of his chest.
Kuechly remained on the field for several minutes, sprawled out on his back. He eventually sat up and when he did he had tears in his eyes and was gasping for breath.
Kuechly is the seventh Panthers player to enter the team's concussion protocol since the beginning of the season. Cam Newton missed one game with a concussion and starting left tackle Michael Oher has been out since the first week of October while continuing to battle concussion symptoms.
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