SAN DIEGO -- Former All-Pro defensive lineman Louie Kelcher, 28, whose unexpected retirement Sunday shocked the San Diego Chargers'training camp, said in a statement Tuesday that he has simply lost the desire to play football 'at the present time.'
Kelcher's contract was renegotiated following his 1978 Pro Bowl season, paying him in excess of $100,000 a year, and he was not known to have anycontract disputes.
There have been reports that Kelcher was having trouble getting anywhere near his playing weight of 282 pounds, having shot to an estimated 340 in the off-season.
Kelcher, a crowd-pleaser in San Diego where he has played his entire career since graduating from SMU, said in a statement telephoned to the Chargers public relations department:
'I want to formally announce my retirement from the San Diego Chargers as of Aug. 1, 1982. I want to thank the fans for the support they have given me throughout my career.
'I promised to give reasons for my retirement, but there is only one basic reason for my retirement. That is that I have lost the desire at the present time to continue playing, which is necessary to perform to the best of my ability for the San Diego Chargers; and I feel that it would be a disservice to myself and to my teammates to continue playing at this time. I want to wish the team all the success in the upcoming season. I hope the team continues to win and provides San Diego with a championship football team.'
Kelcher's long-time associate in the Charger front four, Gary 'Big Hands' Johnson said 'I'll give it three weeks. If he's not back in three weeks, I'll believe he has retired.'
Tom Bass's advent as Charger defensive coordinator placed Kelcher's traditional pass-rush role in doubt. Bass advocates variety and frequent use of the three-four alignment. This presumably would have meant the rotation of Kelcher and Johnson at nose guard.
The 6-foot-5 Kelcher was a third-round pick in 1975, and started 83 of 84 games for the Chargers, but missed most of the 1979 season with a knee injury. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl three times in seven seasons, twice as a starter.