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Panthers LB Luke Kuechly on schedule to start after 2-game absence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly will start Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers, as long as he passes the final test in the concussion protocol this weekend.

Starting strong safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Daryl Worley also are progressing through the protocol. All three were full participants during Friday's practice. They were scheduled to meet with the medical staff later in the day and then again Saturday, to make sure there are no setbacks.

"If they proceed accordingly, then hopefully everything is fine,'' coach Ron Rivera said. "You always keep your fingers crossed.''

Kuechly has missed the past two games since suffering a concussion in a Nov. 17 win against New Orleans.

Friday was his third straight day of practicing and first as a full participant. He had been ruled out in the injury report the previous two Fridays.

Without Kuechly, the Panthers (4-8) allowed 900 total yards and 75 points in games against Oakland and Seattle. So Rivera looks forward to getting him back.

"Anytime you've got your leader out there, it's a doggone good thing,'' Rivera said.

Kuechly, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, missed three games with a concussion last season. Like he did last year, Kuechly has served as another set of eyes for the coaching staff during his absence from the field.

"He's been a great resource, not just for the players but the coaches,'' Rivera said. "He gives a different perspective when he's out there and when he's on the sideline. That's a huge plus.''

The Panthers ruled defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring), linebacker/special-teams player David Mayo (concussion) and right tackle Daryl Williams out for Sunday.