Luke Kuechly’s NFL retirement explanation has one big omission

Luke Kuechly stunned the NFL when he announced his retirement in January at the age of 28.

And after some time to let the decision sink in, the former Panthers All-Pro linebacker appears to be at peace with his choice.

“As the season concluded, I really kind of sat back and thought about it: I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to play the game for eight years and the people around me were fantastic, everybody in the Carolina Panthers organization treated me well, they taught me a lot, I learned a lot … I couldn’t ask for a better situation once the season ended,” Kuechly told Mike Tirico on Friday on NBC Sports Network. “I just knew that, you know, I had given everything I had. To be honest with you, I was done at that point. It had nothing to do with changes in coaches or anything like that, I just think I knew in my heart that I gave it everything I had, and at this point it was time to move in a different direction.”

Kuechly had played all eight years of his NFL career under head coach Ron Rivera after getting drafted out of Boston College in 2012. The Panthers fired Rivera in December and then hired Matt Rhule a week before Kuechly announced his decision.

The 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro was a tackling machine and the face of the Panthers’ defense. But he also had a history of concussions that may have made his decision to retire a little easier, though he did not mention them at the time of his announcement.

“I love the game of football, I love everything about it, I love the studying aspect, I love the team aspect. … I’m gonna miss the interaction, the guys, you know, every day,” Kuechly told NBC. “I know when the season comes around I’m going to have that pit in my stomach knowing that, man, I wish I was still out there, but I think you look at it in the sense that you have a long life to live, what’s the best thing for right now? You have to make hard decisions in your life, I think this is one of the harder ones I’ve had to make. Hopefully I can find a way to stay involved in football somehow.”

Kuechly should have plenty of options to stick around football, including a position in broadcasting, a front office or on a coaching staff.

“I think when guys come in on Fridays and Saturdays and you talk to the production crew, you talk to guys like (Jason) Witten and guys that have played, like (Tony) Romo, and Ronde (Barber) … those guys, you can tell that they played at a high level and they still have the ability to stay involved with the game,” Kuechly said. “I think that part is something that’s attractive to me.”

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