Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has exited the injury report, which means he’s fully recovered from a concussion suffered on a Thursday night last month. But the team still hasn’t decided to let him play.
“I’m crossing my fingers every week that they’re going to give me the thumbs up to go,” Kuechly told reporters on Wednesday, via ESPN.com. It was his first press conference since leaving the field in tears after suffering his latest concussion on November 17 against the Saints. “You appreciate those guys wanting what’s best for you. It’s a thing we’re learning more about. I trust what our doctors have to say. I want to get out there and play. This most recent time, just like the last time, everyone said you’re good to go.”
The last time, Week One of the 2015 season, Kuechly missed a month before returning. Though he was fine after that, each additional concussion raises the concern that the consequences will multiply — and eventually clearance to return will becoming impossible to secure.
Which puts retirement on the table, eventually. But Kuechly doesn’t want to discuss that.
“I’m holding off that retirement word for a little ways down the road,” Kuechly said, adding that he’s not worried about the long-term health consequences of multiple concussions. “It’s something you appreciate everybody concerned with how you’re doing, but whenever my opportunity comes back I’ll be back out there.”
The Panthers are surely balancing the benefits of Kuechly playing in a pair of likely meaningless games against the risk that he’ll suffer yet another concussion — and the reality that each concussion arguably puts him one concussion closer to his last one. If, as a practical matter, there’s a lifetime limit on concussions, why take the chance of getting another one in a season that is likely going nowhere?