Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY

Carolina Panthers' linebacker Luke Kuechly has moved to the next step in the concussion protocol

With all the Carolina Panthers news on Monday, fans may have missed the fact that Luke Kuechly is one step closer to returning to the field.

During his press conference on Monday, Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera mentioned that Luke Kuechly had advanced to the next part of the concussion protocol. The Panthers' coach said that Kuechly had met with the doctors on Sunday and was onto the next step of the concussion protocol. That next step is to meet with an independent doctor, which Rivera said had not taken place yet, but hopes will happen on Tuesday. If everything checks out he should be back to practice on Wednesday.

While A.J. Klein has done a good job of replacing Kuechly over the past two games, his return to the field would be a big boost for this defense. He is the quarterback of this defense and he is responsible for calling out the plays and shifts for this group. This type of leadership is certainly hard to replace.

The last two games are the first time in the former first round pick's career that he missed any games. He has earned a number of awards over the past three years including AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFC Defensive Player of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl twice in his three years in the NFL.

The Panthers would seem to be getting healthy with Star Lotulelei returning this week and potentially Kuechly next week. However, they lost defensive end Charles Johnson to a hamstring injury that seems to be a serious one as well as Thomas Davis dealing with a pec injury. Rivera said that he was going for an MRI but did say he got the impression it wasn't very serious. The team does have their bye week after this Week 4 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the team may feel it would be beneficial for the rest of the year to give him a little extra rest.

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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