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Luke Kuechly (concussion) returns to Panthers practice

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The Carolina Panthers' top defensive star is closer to returning to the field.

Luke Kuechly was a limited participiant in practice Wednesday. It was the first time the linebacker has practiced since leaving the Panthers' Week 11 victory with a concussion.

Kuechly will still need the green light from a neurologist before he's cleared for game action.

Given the All-Pro linebacker's history, the Panthers can be expected to exercise caution with his return. Kuechly was sidelined 34 days early last season when he was slow to recover from a concussion. He was in tears immediately after his latest concussion, struggling to catch his breath as he was carted off the field.

The 4-8 Panthers are all but eliminated from postseason contention. Kuechly's return to practice is a sign that he's comfortable with the risks that come with hitting and being hit over the final month of a lost season.

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