Luke Kuechly, NFL star with history of concussions, retires aged 28

Tom Lutz
<span>Photograph: Mike McCarn/AP</span>
Photograph: Mike McCarn/AP

Luke Kuechly, one of the finest linebackers of his generation, has announced his retirement at the age of 28.

The Carolina Panthers star made the announcement in a video posted to the team’s Twitter account. “Now is the right time for me [retire],” said a visibly emotional Kuechly, who had to fight back tears several times. “It’s a tough decision. I’ve thought about it a lot and now is the right chance for me to move on.

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“It makes me sad because I love playing this game. I’ve been playing it since I was a little kid and it’s my favorite thing in the world to do. The memories I have from this place and this organization and playing on the field with these guys will never go away.”

Kuechly did not give a specific reason for his decision in the video, but indicated that injuries meant he was no longer able to play to the best of his abilities. Kuechly suffered two serious concussions during his career, the second of which forced him to miss the final six games of the 2016 campaign. He also sat out a week the following season after apparently being concussed during a game with the Philadelphia Eagles. In total, he missed seven games due to concussions, although he did not mention brain injuries or head trauma during his retirement video.

<span class="element-image__caption">Luke Kuechly is carted off the field with a concussion in 2016.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Grant Halverson/Getty Images</span>
Luke Kuechly is carted off the field with a concussion in 2016. Photograph: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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Several of his current and former teammates paid tribute to Kuechly on Tuesday night. “I couldn’t be more proud to call you my brother! Congrats on a heck of a career! The game will miss you as much as you miss the game bro! I love you my brother!” wrote Thomas Davis, who played alongside Kuechly at linebacker for several seasons.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen spoke highly of Kuechly’s character. “Words can’t describe who Luke Kuechly is as a person, friend and teammate. We have shared countless memories together both on the field and away from it. I feel honored to be his friend and I’ll always appreciate the impact he has had on my life. Love you buddy,” he wrote.

Kuechly was known for his superb football instincts and led the league in tackles in 2012 and 2014. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight seasons, named an All-Pro five times, and is all but guaranteed to be a member of the Hall of Fame. He was a key part of the Panthers team that reached the Super Bowl in the 2015 season, and it was later revealed he had played through a shoulder injury during the team’s playoff run.

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