CHARLOTTE, NC — Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson was carted off the field late in the first quarter of Monday night’s 20-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints with a right ankle injury.
Thompson will be out indefinitely, according to Panthers coach Frank Reich, who described the injury as “significant.” Thompson will undergo additional evaluation on Tuesday.
The Panthers initially announced that Thompson had doubts about his return because of a shin injury, then said after halftime that he would be out for the rest of the game with an ankle injury.
Thompson, a senior member of Carolina’s defense, was injured when Saints left tackle Trevor Penning was thrown to the ground by defensive end DeShawn Williams. The full force of Penning’s 325-pound force landed on the back of Thompson’s leg and ankle.
Carolina players knelt as team doctors tended to Thompson and gathered around him as he was loaded onto the cart. Thompson raised his right hand and index finger as he disappeared into the Bank of America Stadium tunnel.
Thompson led the team in tackles last season with 135. He was transitioning from outside to inside linebacker as Carolina transitioned from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme.
Fellow inside linebacker Frankie Luvu spoke to Thompson at halftime and told him he had his back.
“He’s a big part of our defense,” Luvu said. “He goes above and beyond what he does for this defense and this team.”
It was the second straight week the Panthers lost a key member of the defense for an extended period. Cornerback Jaycee Horn suffered a serious hamstring injury in the opener that required a procedure that forced the Panthers to place him on injured reserve.
He will miss at least the next four games and will likely be out longer.
Thompson was replaced in the lineup by Kamu Grugier-Hill, who had six tackles and a sack.
“Shaq is the best linebacker I’ve ever played with on any team,” Grugier-Hill said. “What he means to this team, what he means to this city, it’s heartbreaking.”
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