Concussion question looms over Luke Kuechly’s retirement

Mike Florio

In an emotional, three-minute video that appeared out of nowhere last night (somehow, none of the infobots got a five-minute head’s up), Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement. He never attributes the decision to concussions, but since he never specifically identifies the reason for his conclusion that he no longer is able to play the game the way he’s accustomed to playing the game, many will fairly speculate that head injuries were the reason for the decision.

Kuechly has had three documented concussions, including a heart-wrenching moment on a Thursday night in 2016 that saw Kuechly crying uncontrollably as he was carted off. For plenty of players, beyond the documented concussions are more concussions that few if any (other than the player) know about. Football players want to play football, and the culture still points to toughness and grit and resilience when it comes to playing through injuries. Many football players still regard, foolish as it may be, playing through a concussion as a badge of honor.

“There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid is to play fast and to play physical and to play strong and at this point I don’t know if I’m able to do that anymore,” Kuechly says at one point in the video. “And that’s the part that is most difficult is I still wanna play but I don’t think it’s the right decision. So . . . thought about it for a long time and I think now is [the] opportunity for me to step away with . . . with what’s going on here.”

He never says why he’s not able to play fast and physical and strong, he never explains why he doesn’t think it’s the right decision to play, and he never delves into “what’s going on here.” Watching the video, it seems like he comes close to opening up about the reasons for his decision to stop playing, but he doesn’t. (It makes it hard not to wonder whether there’s another version or two of the video in which he’s more candid.)

The reasons may never be disclosed. A traditional press conference regarding the retirement may not be happening, so there may not be an occasion to get more details about why Kuechly is calling it quits.

Then again, details may be unnecessary. The reasons, given his history of head injuries, probably are obvious. If Kuechly chooses to open up about it at some point, that’s his right.