Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was mostly a bystander during Tuesday’s practice as he progresses through the concussion protocol for the third time in as many seasons.
Kuechly ran from station to station in sweats with his defensive teammates, but did not participate in any drills. His status for Sunday’s game at Chicago remains uncertain.
“He’s in the protocol. He’s advancing in it and we’ll just see how he is (Wednesday),” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
The Panthers did not have to submit an injury report Tuesday, which is normally a day off.
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Rivera declined to address an ESPN report that claimed Kuechly did not sustain a concussion last week against Philadelphia (the same report also erroneously stated Kuechly had been cleared from the protocol).
Kuechly, who missed nine games the past two seasons after concussions, has to be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can return to practice. The neuroconsultant also will have to clear Kuechly before he plays in a game.
The Panthers took a conservative approach with Kuechly last season, choosing to hold him out the final three games after he’d been cleared and with the team all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Rivera indicated the Panthers again would exercise caution with Kuechly.
“The approach will never be different. It’ll be exactly how it was last year,” he said. “He’ll be in the protocol until the doctors tell me otherwise and then we’ll make decisions based on that from there.”
In the meantime, the Panthers made a roster move Tuesday as insurance in the event Kuechly is not cleared from the protocol, signing seventh-year linebacker Andrew Gachkar.
Gachkar was with Jacksonville during the preseason before getting cut. He spent his first four years with San Diego and was a special teams contributor for the Dallas Cowboys the past two seasons.
The Panthers still plan to go with David Mayo if Kuechly is out this week at Chicago or longer. But Gachkar gives them depth at the position and on special teams.
“He runs very well for a linebacker,” Rivera said. “We threw him in with some of the special teams stuff. He looked good.”
Carolina also brought two former players back on the practice squad – cornerback Zack Sanchez and running back and Charlotte native Jalen Simmons.