Panthers' Receiver Kirkwood Carted Off; Player Who Hit Him Is Cut
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Carolina Panthers wide receiver Keith Kirkwood was hit in the neck area during practice Tuesday, carted off the field and taken away by ambulance. The player who struck him was kicked out of practice and waived.
Coach Matt Rhule said Kirkwood has movement in his legs and is not feeling pain from what he called an “unacceptable” hit by corrnerback J.T. Ibe.
“It’s obviously precautionary and we will wait and see after he’s looked at what exactly (the injury) is,” Rhule said. “That was just the early signs. ... I’m anxious to see what they say.”
Rhule was clearly upset when talking about the play by Ibe, which halted practice for more than 10 minutes as the medical staff tended to Kirkwood on the field. Rhule gathered the players on an adjacent field and spoke to them while Kirkwood was placed in the ambulance.
“It's completely unacceptable to do something like that,” Rhule said. “There are bang-bang plays that will happen and guys will hit the ground, but you can't tee off on somebody. That's not what we do and that is undisciplined by us and can't happen."
Rhule spoke just moments before it was announced the team had waived Ibe. The Panthers have not released a statement from Rhule or general manager Scott Fitterer on the decision to waive Ibe.
Ibe spent four seasons at Rice and two seasons at South Carolina and was trying to make the Panthers roster as an undrafted free agent. He had signed with Carolina in April.
Kirkwood twice broke his clavicle last season and was limited to one catch for 13 yards in one regular-season game. He played his first two seasons for the New Orleans Saints and also played for Rhule at Temple.
“It's a sad, sad part of the game and we have to do a better job of taking care of each other out here,” Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold said. “It was a hard lesson that we learned today.”