Panthers LB Luke Kuechly Announces Retirement from NFL at Age 28

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is seen on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, fighting back tears in a video posted on social media, announced on Tuesday night his plans to retire from the NFL at age 28.

“There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid — play fast, play physical and play strong,” Kuechly said. “And at this point I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore. That’s the part that is the most difficult.”

Kuechly paused to gather his emotions.

“I still want to play, but I don’t think it’s the right decision,” he continued. “I thought about it for a long time. Now is an opportunity to step away with what’s going on here.”

Kuechly didn’t explain exactly why he can’t play fast, physical and strong at this point in his career. What is known is that from 2015 to 2017, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year missed seven games due to concussions.

He wore an experimental device named the “Q Collar” around his neck the past three seasons; the inventor claimed it reduced the risk of concussions. Kuechly was last officially ruled out for a concussion after he was carted off the field in tears during a Thursday night game in 2017. He did miss time during training camp for an undisclosed injury, but he later insisted that wasn’t a concussion.

Kuechly said his final farewell from his favorite place besides the field, the linebackers room at Bank of America Stadium where he watched countless hours of film to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

“I think now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said. “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.”

Former Carolina coach Ron Rivera, who selected Kuechly out of Boston College with the ninth pick of the 2012 draft, expressed to ESPN.com via text that it was good Kuechly gets to “go out on his own terms.”

“One of the really good, young men to play the game, and I am proud to be able to say I got to coach him,” wrote Rivera, now the head coach of the Washington Redskins.

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SOURCE: ESPN, David Newton