Among tight ends, Hayden Hurst received the most guaranteed money this offseason. The former first-round pick signed with the Panthers on a three-year, $21.75MM deal that came with $13MM fully guaranteed. A midseason concussion has stalled Hurst in Carolina.
Concerningly, Hurst’s father shared that an independent neurologist diagnosed the veteran tight end with post-traumatic amnesia. The 30-year-old pass catcher has not played since entering concussion protocol after a Nov. 9 game against the Bears. Interim Carolina HC Chris Tabor said Hurst is progressing, and the former minor league baseball player said he is not planning to retire as a result of this injury.
“I’m doing better each day,” Hurst said, via ESPN.com’s David Newton. “It’s not going to end my career, just being cautious as I come back. Should be another week or two.”
While Hurst confirmed the diagnosis (via Newton), he said the post-traumatic amnesia assessment “sounds way worse.” The Cleveland Clinic defines post-traumatic amnesia as developing after an injury. The condition can bring confusion due to the afflicted person’s “difficulty remembering where they are, how they got there or any new information since the injury.” Hurst tweeted that he does not remember “up to 4 hours after the game (against the Bears).” The South Carolina alum was allowed to remain in the game following the hit, being placed in the protocol after the contest.
Early retirements as a result of concussions have become more commonplace in the NFL. The best defender in Panthers history, Luke Kuechly, is the most notable example. The perennial All-Pro made a surprising call to retire after the 2019 season. Kuechly, who retired at 28, suffered three confirmed concussions during his decorated career.
Hurst is midway through his sixth NFL season. The Ravens drafted him 25th overall in 2018, bringing him in two rounds before adding Mark Andrews. With Andrews becoming Baltimore’s clear-cut top option in the passing game, the team traded Hurst to Atlanta in 2020. After two seasons with the Falcons, Hurst signed a one-year, $3.5MM Bengals deal. Last season, Hurst caught 52 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns. Despite Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki being franchise tag recipients last year, Hurst commanded a better contract than both this offseason.
Hurst’s $5.75MM base salary next season is guaranteed. On a Panthers team that has become the NFL’s worst, Hurst was off to a slow start before the concussion; in nine games, he caught 18 passes for 184 yards. While the ex-Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand expects to be back in action before season’s end, he did well to score the guarantee he did during his second free agency stay.