New England Patriots wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson had to depart Wednesday’s joint practice with the Carolina Panthers after taking a hard hit on a kickoff coverage drill. It seems likely that he will not be ready to return for the two teams’ preseason matchup on Friday.
According to a report by Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed, Wilkerson is likely to “miss some time” after sustaining a head injury. The third-year man, who is competing for a depth spot on either the Patriots’ active roster or practice squad, suffered a concussion on the collision and was later transferred to a local hospital for additional treatment.
Other tests conducted came back clear, but it remains to be seen how much time Wilkerson will actually miss. After Friday’s game with the Panthers, the Patriots will travel to Las Vegas on either Sunday or Monday for another set of joint practices and the preseason finale.
The play that saw Wilkerson go down on Wednesday was a controversial one. While the blindside hit he absorbed was seen as hard but clean, the Patriots took exception to Panthers safety Kenny Robinson seemingly celebrating the injury.
“When you have a teammate, he’s hit, he’s down, there are clear symptoms of what has happened to him, we all know what they look like as football players, he’s demonstrating those symptoms, and then you have players celebrating that act, I take issue with that,” Patriots team captain Matthew Slater said after Wednesday’s practice.
“And I don’t have a problem saying that that’s an issue. I don’t care if it’s in a game situation and certainly in a practice situation, that’s not OK.”
Robinson had already been ejected from practice the previous day for a fight that also involved Wilkerson. He also had to leave Wednesday’s session early for his involvement leading to another brawl shortly after the Patriots wideout was injured.
After the session, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule left open the possibility of Robinson facing some consequences for his conduct during joint practices.
“I didn’t really see the hit, but I did see him standing over the player. That’s not how we want to practice. Things happen in football. There were some good, clean hits, but we don’t stand over someone and taunt them,” Rhule said. “Two days now that practice was affected by a guy. We’ll have to talk about it.”
As for Wilkerson, his absence might negatively impact his outlook for the season. The former rookie free agent spent his first two years in the league on the Patriots’ practice squad, and was in a competition for the 53-man team. He entered joint practices off a solid performance in the preseason opener versus the New York Giants, catching a team-high eight passes for 99 yards.