Stunner: Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly retires

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

Carolina Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly has retired. He is leaving the game at 28.

Kuechly departs the NFL just months from his 29th birthday in April. He played his entire career with the Panthers.

“I think now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said. “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. The memories I have from this place and this organization and being on the field with these guys – they’ll never go away.

“In my heart I know it’s the right thing to do… There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore.”

He was the franchise’s ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He started 118 games, which was every game that he appeared in the NFL.

Only one season in his career did he play in less than 13 games in a season. He appeared in 10 games during the 2016 season.

Kuechly started all 32 games over the last two seasons. This was one of five seasons he started all 16 games in a season.

In his career, he had 1,092 tackles, including 75 tackles for a loss and 31 quarterback hits. He also had 18 interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown; seven forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown; and 66 pass deflections.

His final game came against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 29th. In that game, he appeared in 39 defensive snaps and had six tackles, one tackle for a loss, one quarterback hit, and one pass deflection.

The Panthers are now facing a future without Kuechly and quarterback Cam Newton. New head coach Matt Rhule and the front office will have to decide what to do with Newton, but the odds are he’ll never play another snap for the franchise, who took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“Beyond his extraordinary performance on the field, Luke has had a tremendous impact on this organization and region,” owner David Tepper said. “In my two seasons with Luke, I quickly recognized how special of a person he is. The respect he gives and garners from others as well as the positive impact he has on his peers is second to none. 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.”

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