NFL Twitter Pays Tribute to Luke Kuechly after Carolina Panthers LB Announces Retirement

NFL players took to Twitter to celebrate Luke Kuechly's career and share their shock at the Carolina Panthers linebacker's sudden retirement.

The ninth overall pick of the 2012 draft, Kuechly announced his decision to quit professional football in a video message that was posted on social media on Tuesday night.

Fighting back the tears, the 28-year-old revealed he decided to retire after realizing he was no longer capable of playing the kind of "fast, physical" football that was his calling card since he entered the NFL.

"There's only one way to play this game since I was a little kid—play fast, play physical and play strong,'' he said. "And at this point I don't know if I am able to do that anymore. That's the part that is the most difficult.

"I still want to play, but I don't think it's the right decision. I thought about it for a long time. Now is an opportunity to step away with what's going on here.''

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey described Kuechly as the best players he's ever seen, a sentiment echoed by Carolina safety Eric Reid and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Fellow Panthers Greg Olsen and Tre Boston described Kuechly as one of the best teammates they ever shared the locker room with, with Boston championing his former teammate as a future Hall of Famer.

New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas and Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram also paid tribute to Kuechly's talent, while Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Los Angeles Rams safety Eric Weddle suggested he would be sorely missed by the NFL.

While Kuechly did not mention injuries directly, football took a heavy physical toll on him. He missed 10 games due to concussions between over the last four years, including the last six games of the 2016 season.

One of the finest linebackers of his generation, Kuechly was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year the following season.

He made the Pro Bowl in seven consecutive seasons from 2013 and
played in the 24-10 defeat to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 in 2015.

"I think now is the right chance for me to move on," the Boston College alumnus 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.''

Carolina owner David Tepper also paid tribute to the retired linebacker, highlighting the impact Kuechly had on the Panthers.

"In my two seasons with Luke, I quickly recognized how special of a person he is,'' Tepper said in a statement. "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."

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers during the second half during their game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jacob Kupferman/Getty