St. X grad and Panthers' Kuechly leaves game, enters concussion protocol

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly (59) listens to a coach while sitting on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Charlotte, N.C. Off from the field, Panthers safety Roman Harper says Kuechly is Â?the nicest guy you ever want to meet.Â? But when Kuechly hits the field, teammates say he changes into a person you wouldnÂ?t recognize, ferocious, fiery and competitive. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly won't return to the Panthers' game Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles after being placed in the concussion protocol.

Kuechly, the former Associated Press NFL defensive player of the year, came out after he took a hit near his neck from Eagles offensive lineman Brandon Brooks. Kuechly paused to squat down with about 5 minutes left in the second quarter, then walked to the sideline for trainers to test the range of motion in his neck before he jogged into the locker-room tunnel.

He didn't join the team for the second half and was ruled out in the third quarter. He missed six games last season and three games in 2015 due to concussions.

The Panthers also lost running back Fozzy Whittaker in the first quarter. He was carted off with an injury to his right ankle.

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