Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly missed the Pro Bowl back in January due to shoulder surgery, but the veteran is hoping he can be at full strength when the offseason workout schedule heats up.
Kuechly told reporters Tuesday, via the Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue, that his rehab is on schedule and that he is aiming to be ready for training camp.
Since being taken with the No. 9 overall pick in 2012, Kuechly has become the leader of the Carolina defense. He was named the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and won the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in his second season.
He has made five Pro Bowls, been named first-team All-Pro four times and helped Carolina reach a Super Bowl.
In 2017, Kuechly recorded 125 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and six passes defended. He has averaged 136 tackles, 1.75 sacks, 2.5 interceptions and 0.8 forced fumbles through the first six years of his career.
Kuechly signed a five-year, $62 million extension in 2015—and that's when he started showing up more frequently on the injury report.
The 6'3", 238-pound linebacker played in all 16 regular-season games in each of his first three seasons. However, he has missed 10 games over the past three regular seasons, dealing with injuries from concussions to a torn labrum to this latest shoulder injury.
Kuechly admitted to the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person back in May that it was tough not being able to take the field with his teammates during offseason workouts:
"It's just a bummer that you're not going to be able to do a lot of the OTA stuff. I think that part's fun. You get to get out there and compete with the guys. But it's good to learn and watch from a distance, and help other guys out and get a new perspective on what the defense looks like. Just got to take advantage of it a different way."
Kuechly managed to work his way back for training camp when he had this same operation back in 2016. As long as there are no setbacks, that appears to be a realistic target date this time as well.