CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – Charlotte Panthers Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his sudden retirement Tuesday evening via the team’s Twitter page.
The 28-year-old was coming off his eighth season with the Panthers. He had 1,092 total tackles and 18 interceptions in his career. He spearheaded a Carolina defense that helped the Panthers reach Super Bowl 50.
“It’s never the right time to step away, but now is the right time for me,” he said in the video posted to the Panthers’ Twitter. “It’s a tough decision. I’ve thought about it a lot. I think now is the right chance for me to move on.”
Kuechly, the NFL’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, explained how he didn’t think he could keep up with the speed of the game anymore.
“There’s only one way to play this game, since I was a little kid, is to play fast, play physical, and play strong,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know if I’m able to do that anymore. And that’s the point that’s the most difficult.”
“I still want to play, but I don’t know if it’s the right decision. I’ve thought about it for a long time, and I think now is the opportunity for me to step away.”
Kuechly broke onto the scene with 164 total tackles (103 solo) as a rookie in 2012. He had more than 150 total stops in his first three seasons. He finished with four interceptions each in the 2013 and 2015 campaigns.
The Cincinnati native played his college football in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Boston College. He was selected ninth overall by Carolina in 2012.