JT Ibe, a defensive back out of South Carolina, was waived by the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday after hitting wide receiver Keith Kirkwood in the neck during practice. Kirkwood ended up going to the hospital in an ambulance, and Ibe was almost immediately sent packing.
Ibe spoke to the Charlotte Observer just minutes after he was waived, expressing remorse for what happened and praying for Kirkwood’s health.
‘I’m praying he’s OK’
The collision happened during 11-on-11 drills at the Panthers’ first padded practice. Kirkwood went up for a catch, which is when Ibe hit him in the neck area, leading with his shoulder. He told the Observer what was going through his mind when he hit Kirkwood.
“I was so in the moment, I didn’t even realize it,” Ibe said Tuesday, minutes after the Panthers waived him. “I just saw the ball and him and I wanted to interrupt it. It wasn’t me aiming for his head. It was just me trying to jar the ball out.”
Kirkwood was on the ground for more than 10 minutes, his teammates gathering around him as the medical staff did their evaluation. They eventually decided to put Kirkwood on a backboard, then carted him off to an ambulance headed for the hospital.
“I just felt bad,” Ibe said via the Observer. “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.”
Head coach Matt Rhule was able to give an update on Kirkwood after practice, telling the media that he was able to move his arms and legs and had no pain in his neck.
‘I’m not a dirty player’
Rhule also commented on Ibe’s hit, which got him waived from the Panthers shortly after practice ended.
“It’s completely unacceptable to do something like that,” Rhule said before the Panthers announced the move. “There’s bang-bang plays that happened, guys will hit the ground, but you can’t tee off on somebody.”
Ibe, who was signed by the Panthers in April after going undrafted, reiterated to the Observer that hitting Kirkwood in the neck wasn’t his intention. He wants the chance to apologize to Kirkwood personally, and wants to speak with Rhule and other coaches as well.
“I want to contact Keith and tell him I’m sorry,” Ibe said. “I’m praying for his success and his health, and call Coach Rhule, Coach Simmons and Scott Fitterer and just thank them for my time with the team and giving me this opportunity, honestly.”
“I just want everybody out there just to know I’m a good dude and this is not my game. I’m not a dirty player, I don’t have any dirty hits on my record. I just feel bad.”
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