CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Retired Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly officially announced Thursday he is returning to the team as a pro scout.
''My family ran an auto parts company. That was my last job when I was in high school," Kuechly said in discussing the first time since high school his job won't include playing football. "I worked in the warehouse as a warehouse picker."
Kuechly, 29, surprisingly retired in January, saying he wasn't sure if he could play as "fast, physical and strong'' as he did during his eight NFL seasons that included seven Pro Bowl selections and the league's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013.
He didn't explain why he wouldn't be able to play at the level to which he was accustomed, but Kuechly missed seven games from 2013 to '17 because of concussions.
Kuechly has been weighing options to stay involved in the NFL in some capacity, either with the Panthers or as a television commentator/analyst. The team statement said a decision could be reached soon.
The Panthers officially placed Kuechly on the NFL's reserve/retired list Tuesday. That will allow the organization to spread $11,840,000 in dead money from his contract over the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
The ninth pick of the 2012 draft out of Boston College, Kuechly had 1,092 tackles from 2012 to '19 -- the most in the NFL in that span.
Carolina owner David Tepper said when Kuechly announced his retirement that his "presence can't be replaced," and new coach Matt Rhule has said that he hopes Kuechly will join the staff at some point.
"I've had a great relationship with Luke. He's my neighbor," Rhule said Tuesday about the prospect of Kuechly becoming a scout. "It's great if it works out, if it's what he wants to do. ... I certainly hope it works out.
"He's a great, great person. Forget who he was as a player. He's got to figure out what's right for him. Since the first day, my advice has always been do what's right for you."