NFL Wire News

Panthers may be without Kuechly and Davis Sunday


The Sports Xchange

CHARLOTTE — After the Carolina Panthers beat the Texans in Week 2, Thomas Davis said it was “strange” playing without Luke Kuechly by his side. Heading into Week 4, the Panthers are preparing for the possibility of having neither linebacker against the Bucs.

Kuechly remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol and Davis suffered a pectoral injury in Sunday’s win over the Saints. Even though he was limited, he at least practiced Wednesday. Kuechly wasn’t even on the field.

Head coach Ron Rivera on Monday was hopeful Kuechly would pass his final test with an independent neurologist. Two days later, Rivera was much shorter with reporters who wondered where the star linebacker was.

“I‘m not the doctor. I‘m the football coach and I‘m an optimistic guy,” Rivera said. “And I go through this procedure just like he is.

“I’m not going to get into this part of it anymore. I learned my lesson, I tried to give you guys what I thought I knew on Monday, and apparently, it was a little too much.”

Rivera did say Kuechly’s concussion won’t end his season, but according to a source, the Panthers are expecting him to sit out through their Week 5 bye.

They’re also concerned about Davis’ availability this week, despite his Wednesday participation. He went through individual drills at the start of practice, but was held out during linebacker drills and he didn’t appear to be wearing his normal shell.

There’s no question Davis will try to be on the field in Tampa Bay, but as they’ve shown with a number of injured players in recent years, the Panthers could choose to be “smart” while holding him out through the bye.

The Panthers have already won two games without Kuechly, and while you can question who they beat, the Bucs aren’t much better than the Texans or Saints. If Carolina can get out of Tampa with a win, they’d be 4-0 and likely healthier for their Week 6 matchup at Seattle.

If Kuechly nor Davis play Sunday, the Panthers would be down to A.J. Klein, Shaq Thompson, David Mayo and Ben Jacobs. Adarius Glanton, who appeared in 12 games last year, including the playoffs, is on the practice squad.

SERIES HISTORY: 30th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 18-11. Carolina has swept the series each of the past two years, including two wins led by backup quarterback Derek Anderson last season.


–The Panthers beat the Bucs both times they played last year, and that was without Cam Newton. Carolina’s quarterback is now healthy and playing some of his best football yet. While the Bucs have been OK against the pass, they’re allowing the third-most rushing yards in the league. The Panthers need to establish the run early with Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart, which will then open up the passing game.

Like Newton, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is a former Heisman Trophy winner, but he’s just getting his feet wet in the pros. The Panthers’ pass rush has been devastated by injuries, but they need to get pressure on the young quarterback, even if it means blitzing more. Winston will make mistakes the aggressive Panthers’ defense can capitalize on.

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