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Carolina Panthers

Luke Kuechly ready to lead healthy, hungry defense

CHARLOTTE - Luke Kuechly's 2016 season ended earlier than expected, when a concussion in Week 11 sidelined him the rest of the year.

Entering a new season, a healthy Kuechly is excited to retake the field as a part of a mostly healthy unit. "Guys are excited and ready to get back out there and play again," Kuechly said. "This is why guys go through the offseason and training camp for, the opportunity to play during the regular season."

Every team in the NFL hopes to escape training camp and the preseason without any major injuries. While many teams are able to successfully maneuver the six-week gauntlet, many do not. Fortunately for Carolina, the team heads into Week 1 against the 49ers with a fairly clean bill of health.

"Training camp is going to bang some guys up, but if you can have your core group of guys and the majority of your team trending in the right direction going into the season, it's a positive," Kuechly said.

Wednesday, cornerback Cole Luke and linebacker Jared Norris were the only Panthers that did not participate in practice. While defensive tackles Vernon Butler and Kyle Love were limited in practice, head coach Ron Rivera spoke positively about the players' recovery process.

"(Butler) moved around pretty well today," Rivera said. "(Love) did a lot yesterday and did a lot today. We'll cut him loose tomorrow and see how he is, ju1st to make sure."

On offense, key pieces Cam Newton and Curtis Samuel fully participated in practice Wednesday afternoon.

"We've been on the short end of the stick a few times, but I think right now we're in a good position," Kuechly said. "Those guys in the training room work extremely hard to make sure everyone is good to go and we need to keep it that way. Knock on wood."


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