Panthers' Keith Kirkwood carted off field after hard hit in practice, defender cut

Cornerback J.T. Ibe delivered the hit on wide receiver Keith Kirkwood. Ibe hit Kirkwood in the neck area and had to be carted off and taken away by an ambulance. Ibe was kicked out of practice and then released. Practice was halted for about 10 minutes before coach Matt Rhule regathered the players.

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“It’s completely unacceptable to do something like that. 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 said.

Kirkwood joined the Panthers before the start of the 2020 season and only played one game because of collarbone injuries.

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“I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Anytime a player gets hurt it bothers me, whether it’s something like that or a guy pulls his hamstring. I just recognize how much work these guys put in and how important this time is for them. Everybody, whether it’s a guy like Keith I coached in college or a guy that just got here a week ago,” Rhule said, via the team’s website.

“As a man, as a person I don’t like seeing anyone laying there in pain or hurting or just missing reps or battling through it. I can’t stand those things. But injuries do happen in football. But it’s important to me that when our players do get banged up … they know their value to me and us is not just what they do on the field. We care about who they are.”

The Panthers said Kirkwood has movement in his legs and is not feeling pain.

Ibe played four seasons at Rice and two seasons at South Carolina before signing with the Panthers in April as an undrafted free agent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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