Luke Kuechly leaves opener with head injury, enters concussion protocol

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered a head injury late in the second quarter of Sunday's opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars and did not play in the second half after entering the league's concussion protocol.

After the 20-9 win, Carolina coach Ron Rivera didn't have an update on Kuechly other than that he was in the concussion protocol.

But Rivera was pleased with the way his defense rallied around linebacker A.J. Klein, who replaced Kuechly. He said key leaders, such as outside linebacker Thomas Davis, talked about rallying around each other at halftime.

"That was huge," Rivera said. "When something like that happens, that's what has to happen. You can't sit there and go, 'Oh, woe is me.'

"Let's go. Next man is up. Let's do it better."

Kuechly led with his head when attempting to tackle T.J. Yeldon after a short reception by the rookie running back. The two-time Pro Bowler staggered a step and fell backward.

He stayed on the field for several minutes as trainers attended to him, then walked off under his own power. He was taken straight to the locker room.

Kuechly's 473 tackles the past four seasons are more than any player in the NFL. He was given a five-year, $62.5 million extension on Thursday that made him the highest-paid middle linebacker in NFL history.

The 2013 NFL defensive player of the year, Kuechly had a team-high seven tackles and a sack in the first half.

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