As quoted by USA Today, Kuechly issued a statement on Tuesday night confirming that he will be hanging up his cleats after an eight-year NFL career, stating that he feels it is the right time for him to “move on.” No reason was given behind his decision, but the publication noted that the linebacker had suffered three concussions while playing pro football and had sat out nine games in the 2015 season due to one of these head injuries.
“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,” Kuechly continued. “The memories I have from this place and this organization and being on the field with these guys – they’ll never go away.”
As further suggested in his statement, Kuechly said that he is walking away from pro football because he no longer finds it possible to give the sport his 100 percent on the field, like he’s been doing since childhood.
Separately, Panthers owner David Tepper issued his own statement on the team’s website, recognizing Kuechly’s many contributions on the field and “positive impact” he made on his teammates.
“It’s obviously going to be very difficult for all of us because we know that no player can replace what he’s been for this organization for the last eight years. His presence can’t be replicated.”
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Boston College, Kuechly didn’t take long to make an impact in the league. Per USA Today, he led the NFL in tackles in his first year in the pros while also winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for the Panthers. With Carolina making the playoffs in four of his eight seasons with the team, the talented linebacker got to play in Super Bowl 50 in February 2016, where the Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos, 34-10. He was also named to the Pro Bowl seven times, on top of his five All-Pro selections.
With his retirement from the NFL, Kuechly became the latest top-tier player to retire from the sport before his 30th birthday, following Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s similar announcement shortly before the start of the 2019 season. Only 29-years-old at the time he left the game, Luck was slowed down by multiple injuries throughout his career, including one that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season.