Luke Kuechly’s season is over.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday made official what the Panthers began to hint at strongly earlier this month. Even though Kuechly’s two weeks removed from clearing the NFL’s concussion protocol, his team will end 2016 by taking a conservative approach with their most important defensive player.
“Going forward, it’s what’s best for him, it’s what’s best for the organization,” Rivera told Pat Kirwin on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“Everything we’re doing is about trying to win this football game and then going into the future.”
Kuechly would obviously give the Panthers a better chance to beat the Bucs on Sunday, but with Carolina already eliminated from playoff contention and Tampa essentially in the same boat, there’s not much at stake in the season finale. So except for Kuechly’s desire to play, the Panthers believe the risk of a third concussion or another injury isn’t worth the reward.
Kuechly will finish his fifth season with 102 tackles, two sacks and an interception in just 10 games. It’s unclear if he’ll play in the Pro Bowl late next month in Orlando.
Because Kuechly’s not injured, he can’t go on injured reserve, where two other Panthers landed Tuesday.
Safety Tre Boston, who tweaked his knee Saturday against the Falcons, and defensive end Ryan Delaire, who suffered a knee injury in Week 15, are now both on IR.
The Panthers filled the two open spots with a couple practice squad call-ups: safety Travell Dixon and defensive end Larry Webster.
And getting another chance in Carolina is tight end Eric Wallace. The former Aussie Rules Football player, who was released in final cuts, was signed to the practice squad.