With all of the advances made by the medical community over the last decade as it pertains to head trauma and concussions, it wasn’t much of a shocker last night when Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly called it a carer in an emotional video recorded from the linebackers room at the Panthers’ facility in Charlotte.
Although Kuechly is only 28 and hasn’t officially sustained a concussion since 2017, he’s at the top of my list next to Washington tight end Jordan Reed of players I believe need to retire for the sake of their futures.
“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.’
“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 mention concussions in his retirement statement, but he missed seven games from 2015 to 2017 due to head injuries.
The 2013 Defensive Player of the Year was a seven-time Pro-Bowl selection during his eight-year career in the NFL. He led all NFL players with 1,092 tackles the past eight seasons.
Kuechly’s 18 interceptions are the most by an NFL linebacker since 2012, and his 75 tackles for loss are the fifth-most by any NFL LB during this span. He had pick-sixes in both of Carolina’s postseason wins over Seattle and Arizona on the way to Super Bowl 50.
Carolina veteran tight end Greg Olsen paid homage to his friend and teammate on social media last night:
Kuechly was Carolina’s first-round pick at No. 9 overall out of Boston College in the 2012 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 games in his first three seasons, producing 164 tackles (103 solo), eight passes defended, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and one sack as a rookie.
Kuechly played in all 16 games the last two years. In 2019, he had 144 tackles, a career-best 12 passes defended and a pair of interceptions.
He ends his career with 12.5 sacks, eight fumble recoveries, seven forced fumbles and 65 passes defended.
Those above stats are for regular-season games only. Kuechly helped the Panthers to postseason appearances in 2013, ’14, ’15 and ’17.
In seven playoff games, Kuechly had 61 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery, seven passes defended and three interceptions for 37 return yards and two touchdowns.