Luke Kuechly Says He Won't Change Style of Play Despite Concussion History

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2017

Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly (59) directs the defense during the NFL football team's organized team activity in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Carolina Panthers superstar Luke Kuechly has missed nine games over the past two seasons due to concussions. But the linebacker isn't planning on changing his style of play anytime soon. 

"You play the game and don't think about getting hurt, because that slows you down and increases the likelihood of getting hurt," he said Thursday, per David Newton of ESPN.com. "I don't think about it. You just go out there and play."

He added, "You've got to play hard. The moment you slow down, then that's when you get hurt."

Kuechly missed the final six games of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. According to Newton, he was cleared to play after three games, but head coach Ron Rivera decided to shut him down for the rest of the season, a decision he defended on Thursday.

"There's some medical science that says even though a guy is cleared the longer you wait sometimes the better," he noted. "All I did was follow what the doctors were telling me and made the decision I felt was best for the young man and the team going forward."

Kuechly's concussion issues are a major concern moving forward, however. When Kuechly is on the field he's been nothing short of dominant, accumulating 102 tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in just 10 games last year. He was the 2013 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year and is a four-time Pro Bowler. 

More importantly, however, are the implications for Kuechly's health later in life if he continues to sustain concussions, as more research continues to unravel the long-term effects of brain trauma. 

And Kuechly's comments also come in a week that has seen players admitting to concealing concussions or ignoring its symptoms to stay on the field.

"Guys get concussions, they don’t tell the coaches," former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson said on Saturday, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "It happens. I don’t tell the coach sometimes cause I know I got a job to do. The team needs me out there on the field. And sometimes you allow that to jeopardize yourself, but that’s just the nature of the world."

As B/R's Mike Freeman wrote on Wednesday, "The players with whom I spoke say when they get hit in the head—dinged, as they still call itor get dizzy from a hit to the head, they tell almost no one, especially not the team. The only people they tell are other players or family members, such as wives."