Legendary former Carolina Panthers linebacker just can’t stay away

(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Luke Kuechly
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Luke Kuechly /

There was a surprise visitor to Gibbs Stadium on Saturday evening, with former Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly making an appearance.

Luke Kuechly‘s love for the Carolina Panthers and football, in general, cannot be understated. The iconic linebacker gave his absolute all for the organization before announcing a shock retirement following the 2019 season, which was primarily down to health concerns and not wanting to comprise his quality of life after a series of concussions.

The former first-round pick stayed around the franchise in a new role. Kuechly assisted as a pro scout during the 2020 campaign and left a notable impression before quietly walking away from the Panthers entirely once the season came to a conclusion.

Walking off into the sunset without any spotlight was a fitting end to Kuechly’s time in Carolina.

But it’s clear the perennial All-Pro is still going to keep a close eye on developments.

There was a great deal of excitement in the air when the Panthers descended on Gibbs Stadium for Back Together Saturday, which saw more than 6,000 fans attend to see this new-look roster participate in team drills and even some 11-on-11 to conclude the practice.

Panthers.com writer Darin Gantt also spotted someone lurking over the hedge getting a good view of the action.

None other than Kuechly.

Just a future Pro Football Hall of Famer checking in on what Carolina has going for them in 2021.

Kuechly grew close to some members of the roster last year, with Jeremy Chinn stating how beneficial it was to sit down and watch game film with one of the most cerebral players in NFL history. Something that played a significant part in the Southern Illinois product enjoying a sensational rookie campaign.

When you give your life to football like Kuechly, just stepping out entirely is no doubt difficult. Especially when one considers his retirement as nothing to do with production and more about the consequences of playing such a violent position.

The player’s legacy with the Panthers will live on through the ages. Kuechly was a true master of his art and if Carolina’s current options are half as good, it could see Matt Rhule’s men become one of the season’s surprise packages when it’s all said and done.

Whether they can accomplish such a feat is another matter.

Linebacker depth is something of a concern. So it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in the world to see general manager Scott Fitterer add another piece in this area of the field to boost options.

It might be worth Rhule putting a call in Kuechly’s direction in the coming days to see what he made of it all. Having such a knowledgeable player who hardly put a foot wrong during an incredible eight-year career wouldn’t hurt, and he might have seen something that went unnoticed by the coaching staff with so much going on around them.

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The Panthers miss Kuechly as much as he undoubtedly misses them. But the legendary figure will always be welcomed back with open arms in whatever capacity he chooses down the line.