CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera typically doesn’t suit up a player on game day if he doesn't practice during the week.
That’s not a concern with middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who sat out Wednesday’s practice as he continues to go through the concussion protocol.
“Luke doesn’t need to practice, I promise you that much right now," Rivera said about his two-time Pro Bowl selection. “He’s a smart football player. He understands and knows the game.
“To be able to play effectively, to play to his ability, he probably doesn’t need to practice. To play as a great, great, great player, yeah, he probably needs to practice."
Kuechly, who suffered the concussion late in the first half of Sunday’s 20-9 victory at Jacksonville, still has to go through several phases of the protocol before being cleared. The final decision will come from an independent physician, likely late Thursday or Friday.
Even if Kuechly is cleared, Rivera wouldn’t say 100 percent he’ll play the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year.
“We’ll see," Rivera said. “No conjecture would be fair. This is serious. We’ve just got to follow the protocol. To guess or assume would be unfair."
But Rivera admitted there are very players like Kuechly “that can just show up and play."
“For everything he does, he’ll be in the video room, he’ll be watching [film]," Rivera said of Kuechly. “He’s probably not supposed to, but he probably is."
Rivera said Kuechly tried to do more than he was supposed to do on the side during Wednesday’s practice and had to be told by head trainer Ryan Vermillion to “just settle down."
The good news for Carolina’s defense is tackle Star Lotulelei practice in pads on a limited basis. The Panthers’ 2013 first-round pick missed all four preseason games and the opener at Jacksonville with a stress reaction on his right foot that was surgically repaired in January.
Lotulelei said the foot felt fine after Wednesday’s practice. That’s another good sign. Because the foot was sore early last week the Panthers opted to sit Lotulelei.
“He had a really good day," Rivera said. “He did a lot of the individual stuff with the D-line. Once we finished with individuals he was done for the day."
Rivera said if Lotulelei doesn’t experience soreness on Thursday his workload will increase. If that all goes well, he said “there’s a good chance" Lotulelei will play.