The announcement was made via the Panthers' Twitter account, in a three and a half minute emotional video where Kuechly explained his decision. He mentioned that he hopes to still be involved in some way, and said that his decision had nothing to do with the new coaching staff coming in. Kuechly said that he is excited about what head coach Matt Rhule is going to be able to do with this team and added that he's confident his fellow linebackers can step up in his absence.
Naturally, the former No. 9 overall pick's decision to retire early sent shockwaves around the NFL, and his teammates, as well as several other NFL players sent their congratulations to one of the best inside linebackers of the last decade via Twitter. Recently-retired Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski dropped a note for Kuechly and joked about what might be coming in his future. Several Panthers teammates and NFL players sent Kuehcly a note on social media.
Let's take a look at some of those reactions
On the Pick Six Podcast, Will Brinson and Sean Wagner-McGough recorded an emergency podcast to break down Kuechly's decision and his legacy. Listen below and subscribe here wherever you get podcasts.
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 pic.twitter.com/0DHYkOwDp1— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) January 15, 2020
One of the Best Teammates I’ve ever had! The 1st person you meet when you come into the locker room. Always told people I’d teach my son to be like you! You’re the model of The Standard! Future HOFer! Proud to call you one of the bros! One heck of a career! Love you bro! LUUUUKE! https://t.co/NcB3MQExMg— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) January 15, 2020
As a fellow linebacker in the 2012 draft, Luke Kuechly was the cream of the crop.— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) January 15, 2020
I respect the hell out of his decision to retire. He missed 3 games in ‘15, & the final 6 games of ‘16 with a concussion. He is a hall of famer, but life is more than football. pic.twitter.com/O7ep4ZxjJP
Luke kuechly is one of most pure and authentic people i’ve met! He was a great teammate and friend! honored to have played with you! The gridiron will miss your presence but I’m excited to see what the next chapter has for you! love you Bro! #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/0a6k4urcRu— Jonathan Stewart (@Jonathanstewar1) January 15, 2020
As the Panthers so poetically put it, Kuechly was the face, the heart and the soul of Carolina's defense. A Panther from beginning to end, Kuechly steps away from football having recorded 1,092 combined tackles, 12.5 sacks, 67 passes defensed and 18 interceptions. His 690 solo tackles are second in Panthers' franchise history -- only behind linebacker Thomas Davis.
"There's only one way to play this game since I was a little kid is to play fast and play physical and to play strong," Kuechly said. "At this point, I don't know if I'm able to do that anymore and that's the part that is the most difficult ... I still want to play but I don't think it's the right decision."