New Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule’s job just got harder. Linebacker Luke Kuechly has announced his retirement. The announcement came via the Panthers Twitter page in a video where an emotional Kuechly explains the decision.
“I still want to play,” Kuechly said via the announcement. “But I don’t think it’s the right decision.”
Kuechly is 28 years old. He’ll be 29 in April.
Kuechly was a force whenever he stepped onto the field and quickly became one of the best linebackers in the league. He was 2013’s defensive player of the year—his second year in the NFL. In 2014 he led the league in defensive stops. Through his eight-year career, he made seven Pro Bowls.
The announcement follows another young star’s decision to step away. Quarterback Andrew Luck announced his own retirement weeks before the 2019 NFL season began, citing the back and forth cycle of injuries and rehab. Luck was 29
San Francisco 49ers fans can relate to this to the day 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis announced his decision to leave football. Both Willis and Kuechly lasted eight seasons in the NFL.
The NFL has never been easy and the pain—and possible head trauma—that goes along with it has made it tough for some to stick around. The Panthers will now have a huge void to fill in the offseason. Kuechly, like Willis and Luck before him, is one of those players that just can’t be replaced.