Panthers Linebacker Luke Kuechly Retires From NFL

The 2013 Defensive Player of the Year announced his retirement from the league Tuesday

Zach Gelb
January 15, 2020 - 9:36 am
Luke Kuechly

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Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday. The 28-year-old posted a video to social media, explaining his decision as he fought back tears. 

“There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid: to play fast and play physical and play strong, and at this point, I don’t know if I’m able to do that anymore,” an emotional Kuechly said. “That’s the part that is the most difficult. I still want to play, but I don’t think it’s the right decision.”

Former NFL offensive lineman Alex Boone reacted to the news on CBS Sports Radio

“I’m not surprised,” Boone said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I played with Chris Borland, and he retired after one year. That was a complete shocker. That was the same year that Patrick Willis retired. But to retire because of concussions, this is becoming more prevalent and people are paying more attention to their bodies. They’re like, ‘I just don’t want to be like that someday.’ So I credit him because I know how tough of a decision that must be.”

Kuechly, the ninth overall pick in 2020, was Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, a seven-time All-Pro – including five first-team selections – and twice led the league in tackles. He also helped the Panthers to a Super Bowl in 2015.

From 2015 to 2017, however, he missed seven games due to concussions.

“I got to think they probably saw this coming,” Boone said of the Panthers. “I got to give a lot of credit to Chris Borland and Patrick Willis because they both told me face-to-face, ‘Hey, listen, this is my decision.’ I can’t tell you how much guts that took to come and be like, ‘Hey, listen, I know you might be mad at me, but this is my decision. I hope we can still be friends moving forward.’ I was like, ‘Dude, we will forever my friends. I’m not going to come down on you about this. The health of your brain and body should always outweigh this silly game.’ People think about how serious this is. There’s guys that are having trouble remembering things, speaking, doing simple things because we all played this silly game. And yeah, it was worth a lot and we had a ton of fun, but sometimes the juice is not worth the squeeze.”