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The Carolina Panthers are being completely remade entering the 2020 NFL season, and that includes a major change on defense.

Luke Kuechly announced his shocking retirement in a video shared through the team’s Twitter page on Tuesday.

“I still want to play but I don’t think it’s the right decision,” Kuechly said while holding back tears. “I thought about it for a long time, and I think now is an opportunity for me to step away with what’s going on here. I think we have a really good linebacking room.”


The 28-year-old linebacker said the decision had nothing to do with the head coaching change. The Panthers fired Ron Rivera during the season and recently hired Matt Rhule as their new head coach. Kuechly was drafted by the Panthers in 2012, and Rivera was the team’s head coach during his entire career.

Kuechly was a 7-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro, the 2012 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year. He dealt with concussions during his career and also had shoulder surgery last offseason.

Kuechly has been a staple of the Panthers’ defense the past eight seasons, and Cam Newton has been a star on their offense. Now one has to wonder whether Carolina will enter next season without either of them, not to mention Rivera.