Concussion question looms over Luke Kuechly’s retirement

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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.

13 responses to “Concussion question looms over Luke Kuechly’s retirement

  1. Luke is being smart, and you can only respect him for that. It sucks that a player as great as he is retiring, but then again, an 8 year NFL career is not that short relatively speaking. He played the game very hard and as such, given the injuries, cannot play that way anymore, so he made the smart decision to walk away. Football is a hard game with lots of injuries. Some guys are lucky and able to avoid head injuries, and some are not. It looks a whole lot better for the NFL to have him walk away now vs. him play another 4-5 years and potentially sustain more head injuries and come out worse for it. Again, an 8 year NFL career is not that short.

  2. Always one of the smartest players on the field, while also possessing the physical attributes to be elite. Hope he suffers no long-term effects to allow him to fully enjoy his retirement.

  3. Football is tough on your body and mind. It is a sport like my other favorite in boxing that if you are not committed 100% you can suffer serious injury (and in boxing death). His head injuries I am sure played a large part of his decision and as I am sure there where many factors. This retirement doesn’t surprise me nor does it when almost any RB retires. LBs and RBs are involved in the most of the violent collisions on the field. It adds up.

  4. Perhaps the “with what’s going on here” is referencing the full-on rebuild with the Panthers.

  5. top 2 lb ever since he came into the league, he always played at 100mph, and it showed.

    One of the smartest football players we have seen in years, and the injuries he has already come back from is more than anyone’s fair share.

    I hope he has no lasting effects from those head knocks, that game where he got carried off was one of the scariest things I have ever seen watching the game. I hope he enjoys the rest of his life, for as strong and intense as he was on the field, he always came across as a genuinely nice guy.

  6. Great player… Respect the Man’s Decision and Privacy… He knows his body and thinks it’s time… Class Act… Need More Like Him… MUCH LOVE AND RESPECT LUKE KUECHLY… May God Bless You My Brother…

  7. It is always difficult to lose such a player. I will miss watching him when my team played him but at the end of the day, your personal health is way more important than the sport. I hope he finds success off the field. Good luck Luke!

  8. I think in part he is choosing his words carefully, by not saying he is retiring (by choice) is not the same as saying nothing after being advised to retire for medical reasons for benefits and any possible claims.

  9. I should have added it also can impact any bonus money he may have to pay back or other sums of money he may be able to collect from the team or insurance.

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