Tuesday’s Panthers practice came to a halt during team drills because a hit by safety J.T. Ibe to the head of wide receiver Keith Kirkwood when he was coming down from trying to catch a pass left the wideout in need of medical attention.
Kirkwood was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and would return to the team’s facility later in the day after being diagnosed with a concussion. Ibe would not be there to see him, however.
The Panthers cut Ibe for what head coach Matt Rhule called a “completely unacceptable” hit. Ibe spoke to Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer after the move and said he was “so in the moment” that he didn’t realize what he’d done. He added that he wanted to let Kirkwood know that he’s sorry for the hit and tell the Panthers that he appreciated the opportunity they gave him.
“I just felt bad,” Ibe said. “I looked at him when I landed, and I just felt bad. I asked the trainers to tell him I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hit him like that. It wasn’t intentional at all and I’m praying he’s OK. Obviously, I’m in an emotional state right now, but at the end of the day it’s not about me — it’s about Keith being OK.”
Kirkwood will have to go through the concussion protocol, but it appears he’s avoided other injuries that will keep him from getting back on the field with the Panthers. Ibe, who was undrafted in 2020, will have to find another place to continue his playing career.