SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Reserve safety J.T. Ibe was waived by the Carolina Panthers shortly after he delivered an illegal hit to the head of Keith Kirkwood that sent the wide receiver to the hospital in an ambulance during Tuesday's practice, the team's first in pads.
Kirkwood was later released from the hospital and was back in the care of team physicians. He has been diagnosed with a concussion.
Coach Matt Rhule called Ibe's hit, on which the rookie out of South Carolina led with the shoulder and helmet to Kirkwood's helmet, "completely unacceptable" and "not what we'll do."
"I don't want anyone to get hurt," Rhule said. "I just recognize how much work guys put in, how important this time is for them. As a man, as a person, I don't like seeing anyone laying there in pain."
Kirkwood, a fourth-year NFL player Rhule also coached at Temple, had gone into the air attempting to catch a pass from backup quarterback P.J. Walker when Ibe delivered the blow. Kirkwood immediately went to the ground and lay out flat. There was an eerie silence as trainers rushed to stabilize the player on a plank.
Players and coaches gathered around and took a knee. Silence engulfed the practice fields at Wofford College.
The silence was broken temporarily as players applauded softly as Kirkwood was carted off.
Rhule then gathered the team and kicked Ibe out of practice after talking to several other players about the hit.
"I was so in the moment, I didn't even realize it," Ibe told The Charlotte Observer after he was waived. "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."
Ibe added that he's "not a dirty player" and said he feels bad about the hit.
Practice resumed after a 12-minute stoppage.
Kirkwood missed most of last season with a shoulder injury and has seen his career plagued by injuries.
"We were praying for him out there," quarterback Sam Darnold said after practice. "We've got to do a better job of taking care of each other out there.
"All of us are going to keep competing, but obviously you have to play safe and keep each other up."