CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers can’t seem to catch a break these days.
Beason, 27, will have surgery next week to repair cartilage damage in his right knee and a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Beason has only played in five games since receiving a five-year, $51.5 million contract extension in 2011 that included $25 million in guaranteed money. He missed 15 games last year with a torn Achilles in his left leg.
These are tough times for the Panthers.
In the past two weeks, they’ve lost center Ryan Kalil, cornerback Chris Gamble and Beason to season-ending injuries and general manager Marty Hurney was fired. Adding to the frustration, they’ve lost four straight games and have the worst record in the NFC at 1-5 entering Sunday’s game at Chicago.
Kuechly started the season at weak side linebacker, but moved to middle linebacker the last two games with Beason out. Kuechly has 26 tackles in his first two starts in the middle along with an interception and a fumble recovery.
“To me I’ve learned that Luke is better suited as a middle linebacker,” Rivera said. “He has the skill. He can play outside too but he has a natural feel and some natural leadership instincts as far as being in the middle. That is probably the best spot for him.”
What that means for Beason’s long-term career in Carolina remains to be seen.
Beason was unavailable for comment and his agent Drew Rosenhaus did not immediately return phone calls.
“It just seemed to bother him more and more and when he got the initial MRI one of the ideas was to rest it and see how it was,” Rivera said. “That’s why he had the last couple of games off. It didn’t get any better so the concern was it was worsening, so the decision was made to do something about it.”
“Even when he was out, Jon was always real helpful,” Kuechly said. “Every time I came off the field he was giving me tip after tip after tip. He’ll still be around, I’m sure. But his presence will be missed on the field.”