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Even without LB Kuechly, Panthers are 4-0

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers are off this week, but Luke Kuechly Watch continues.

In the latest update, coach Ron Rivera on Monday said Kuechly is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but there’s confidence the linebacker will be cleared by Carolina’s Week 6 game in Seattle.

“Hopefully, in the next couple days, they’ll be able to get that thing taken care of, so we’re pretty optimistic,” Rivera said.

Even though they’ve been without their best defensive player for three and a half games, the Panthers have managed to remain perfect.

Carolina’s schedule hasn’t been a Murders’ Row, but of the NFL’s six remaining unbeaten teams, only one is awaiting the return of arguably the best linebacker in the league.

“I’d like to believe that as well as we’ve played, we’re going to play better,” Rivera said.

If and when Kuechly returns, the Panthers will be facing one of those problems teams want to have. They will likely have to find playing time for A.J. Klein, who’s filled Kuechly’s spot admirably.

Instead of losing his job to first-round pick Shaq Thompson, Klein’s made a good argument to stay on the field, especially in obvious run situations.

“(Kuechly’s absence) forced a lot of guys to step up to the front to do their jobs better, know that they’re capable. I think it added a lot of confidence to some guys, particularly A.J.,” Rivera said.

“I think it also helped (Thomas Davis). We had T.D. play (middle linebacker) in some of our situations, which was different for him. One thing that people always talk about is when you learn another position; you realize how it affects the way you do things.”


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