CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is retiring from the NFL after eight seasons.
The 28-year-old Kuechly made the surprising announcement Tuesday night in a video posted on the team’s website. He said, “I think now is the right chance to move on.”
“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do.” pic.twitter.com/mSDyJ0iEMw
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2020
Kuechly was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro five times. However, he suffered three concussions during his career, which may have led to his decision.
Kuechly was in tears when he was carted off the field after a concussion during the 2016 season, a striking moment that highlighted the NFL’s ongoing problem with brain injuries.
“It makes me sad because I love playing this game,” Kuechly said. “ I’ve played it since I was a kid. It’s my favorite thing to do in the world. The memories I have from this place and this organization and being on the field with these guys, they will never go away. There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid — play fast, play physical and play strong. At this point, I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore.”
Kuechly finishes his career with 1,092 tackles, which is the most by any player since coming into the league in 2012 as a first-round pick out of Boston College.
Kuechly was part of three NFC South championships and helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl in 2015.
“While I wish we could have him for many more years, he has done everything the right way and we respect the decision he has made,” Panthers owner David Tepper said. “Luke is a once in a generation player and someone we want every member of this organization to emulate.”
Kuechly suffered a notable concussion on Nov. 17, 2016, when he left the field after a collision with a Saints player. He left the game on a cart crying uncontrollably, a moment that shook the Panthers organization and players around the league.
But Kuechly later said he wasn’t concerned about concussions affecting his future.
He suffered a third concussion in 2017, but continued playing.