Cam Newton offers depressing insight into Luke Kuechly's retirement

What might have been...
Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton
Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton offered some depressing insight into Luke Kuechly's bombshell retirement.

Luke Kuechly's career was cruelly cut short. The perennial All-Pro linebacker walked away from the Carolina Panthers after eight glorious seasons to preserve his long-term health. A series of concussions left the popular figure with no perceivable alternative as the organization embarked on a new era under Matt Rhule.

Kuechly remains sorely missed on the field. That's an indictment of the Panthers' indifferent recruitment and a testament to his exceptional credentials. But as the former first-round pick out of Boston College gets set to potentially become a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in 2025, there will always be a tinge of what might have been among the fanbase.

Cam Newton believes Carolina Panthers rebuild played into Luke Kuechly's retirement

Cam Newton has a different opinion. Kuechly's close teammate during Carolina's glory days of the mid-2010s told Shannon Sharpe on Club Shay Shay that had the Panthers decided not to clean house and keep some of their most established stars around, the cerebral second-level enforcer might have gone down a different route rather than walking away from the franchise entirely.

"It's a lot of things that, even going back to the franchise, it's like, bro, you should not have cleaned your house. Getting rid of Ryan Kalil impacted that offensive line. Getting rid of Thomas Davis impacted that defense. How you lost Luke [Kuechly]. Luke retired. But I do think Luke would not have retired if he knew that locker room was still gonna be intact. He probably would've took some time off. And his health is important, you know, taking concussions is extremely serious. But that would've been something that you would've had to consider being a Luke Kuechly. Knowing that I still got KK Short, I still got Charles Johnson, I still got Thomas Davis, I still got guys that going to battle with me. You dig what I'm saying? Julius Peppers, they all left. And these are the things that he had to think back and say, hold on, we ain't got none. I gotta start over. Nah, I'm good with that. And I can't speak for Luke. But these are the things that in hindsight, you gotta think about."

Cam Newton via Club Shay Shay

Whether this factored into Kuechly's decision is debatable. His health was the most important thing above all else. That said, the passion he displayed for football and the Panthers indicates there is some merit to Newton's opinion regarding the player's eventual retirement decision.

Rhule wanted to install his ethos and got carte blanche from team owner David Tepper. For fear of losing him to the New York Giants, the billionaire owner handed out a whopping contract and also enabled the college program builder to have the final say on personnel decisions for good measure. As we all know, this did not have the desired effect.

As such, Rhule was allowed to remove top-level performers from the equation. Ron Rivera began this the previous year, but the ex-Baylor coach carried this on ruthlessly. Greg Olsen was moved on with little fanfare attached. Newton was also made surplus to requirements as the Panthers moved forward with free-agent signing Teddy Bridgewater under center.

Kuechly is highly intelligent. One of his biggest assets on the gridiron was deciphering how things would unfold before they happened. This was probably the case with Rhule. Someone the player was not willing to risk further health complications for in no uncertain terms.

This is a depressing insight into Kuechy's bombshell retirement. It's just Newton's opinion, of course, but the pair remain good friends. They've also likely spoken about what unfolded leading up to that emotional video message that confirmed he was done for good.

Had the core stayed intact, who knows how things would have played out? Unfortunately, we'll never know.

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