Luke Kueckly

Streeter Lecka / Staff

Luke Kuechly Announces His Retirement

Brett Jensen
January 14, 2020 - 9:13 pm

Jason Huber contributed to this story 

Carolina Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly, considered by most experts to be the best middle linebacker in the NFL for the past several years, shocked the football world by announcing his retirement from the game at such a young age Tuesday night.

Kuechly, just 28, retires as a seven-time Pro Bowler, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, and the 2012 Rookie of the Year, and seems to be a guarantee to be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Kuechly made the announcement via social media with a 3:35 video of him sitting in the linebackers meeting room at Bank of America Stadium. He got emotional numerous times and took long pauses to regain his composure before he continued speaking. 

Much of the speculation surrounding his abrupt retirement centers around his three severe concussions that he sustained during his career, which caused him to miss several games.

And while Kuechly didn’t mention it outright, there seems to be some hints to that in his video.

“There’s only one way to play this game, since I was a little kid, is to play fast and play physical and play strong,” he said. “At this point, I’m not sure if I’m able to do that anymore. That’s the part that is most difficult. I still want to play, but I don’t think it’s the right decision. I’ve thought about it for a long time and I think now is an opportunity to step away with what’s going on here.”

Anyone who saw Kuechly being carted off the field while crying in 2016, will be hard-pressed to forget it. He couldn’t stop crying due to a concussion and he would miss the final six games of the season because of that.

Back in September, Kuechly was asked in a one-on-one interview about his previous concussions and if he ever gets nervous about the future.

“You think about it, but I don’t want to talk about that,” he said.

When pressed about the subject, he made it clear he didn’t want to talk about his previous concussions or any concerns he may have from receiving them.

Kuechly finishes his career with 1,092 tackles, the most in the NFL since he was drafted ninth overall in 2012 out of Boston College. He also finishes with 18 interceptions, which is also the most in that span.

“It’s a tough decision,” he said. “I’ve thought about it a lot and I think now is the right chance for me to move on. It makes me sad because I love playing this game. I’ve played it since I was a little kid. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do.”

This past season was more difficult for Kuechly, who often was out of position and gave up some big plays. Even so, he was Second Team All-Pro and made his seventh Pro Bowl.

His most recent concussion came in 2017, though he didn’t miss any playing time.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play this game since I was in the fourth grade,” he said. “I’ve been with the Panthers now for eight years. It’s never the right time to step away, but now is the right time for me.”


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