Tampa Bay Times

From Bucs, empathy for Kuechly’s concussion woes

- BY GREG AUMAN Times Staff Writer

TAMPA — The Bucs have two key players sidelined with concussion­s, one for more than three weeks now, so players don’t even need to look across the field Sunday for a reminder of the shadow cast by concussion­s on the game they love to play.

Yet, at the very intersecti­on of football’s physical nature and its growing concern about concussion­s and their impact on long-term player health is Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. The former NFL defensive player of the year is dealing with his third concussion in as many years.

“It’s terrible. It’s horrible for any player,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday. “I’ve said many times it’s the worst part of this game — injuries in general, and concussion­s at the top of the list.”

Kuechly is 26 and didn’t miss a game his first three seasons. He quickly establishe­d himself as a tackling machine, with 463 in those first three years. In each year since, he has suffered a concussion and an extended absence — three games in 2015, then six to close out last season.

Last year’s concussion came on a Thursday night with a national TV audience, which witnessed a frightenin­g moment with Kuechly crying on the field as trainers attended to him. The uncertaint­y in his face — was this another concussion and what

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