Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly was playing through a partially torn labrum when he made NFL history in becoming the first player to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive playoff games.
The All-Pro middle linebacker is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder, Jonathan Jones and Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer reported on Tuesdsay.
Kuechly never missed practice time after originally sustaining the injury in the first half of the regular-season finale versus the Buccaneers. He sported a brace on his shoulder throughout the postseason, tallying a league-high 29 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and four passes defensed as a standout on Carolina's defense.
Although his status for offseason practices is uncertain, per the Observer, Kuechly is expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp in late July.
Producing one of the most impressive postseason runs in recent memory while limited by a painful shoulder injury will only strengthen Kuechly's claim as the successor to Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis, the preeminent sideline-to-sideline middle linebackers of their eras.
Despite missing three games to concussion, Kuechly still led the Panthers with 118 tackles while showing marked improvement in coverage. He garnered four votes for Defensive Player of the Year in what was his finest all-around season.
Provided Kuechly is back to 100 percent by the end of the August, he will be primed to challenge J.J. Watt as the NFL's top defensive star in 2016.