Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement from the NFL Tuesday night at the age of 28.
“I think now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said in a statement on the Panthers’ Twitter page. “It makes me sad because I love playing this game, I’ve played it since I was a kid. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do. The memories I have from this place and this organization and being on the field with these guys – they’ll never go away.”
“In my heart I know it’s the right thing to do… There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore.”
Kuechly has been well known for being one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Since he joined the league as a first-round pick in 2012, he’s recorded 1,092 tackles, most by any player since 2012. He also had 18 interceptions. Kuechly was voted to the Pro Bowl and AP All-Pro selections seven times. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
In the past, he has had concussion issues that he has had to work through. He suffered concussions three times throughout his seven seasons.
He would not be the first linebacker to retire early due to injuries. Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who was known as one of the best at the position during his career, had a lingering toe injury that made him decide to retire as well.
This will be a tough void for new head coach Matt Rhule to fill as he is focused on rebuilding the franchise. Luke Kuechly would have been the veteran presence for the defense with years left in the tank. The youth movement looks to be in full force in Carolina after the announcement.
“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do.” pic.twitter.com/mSDyJ0iEMw— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2020