Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Sunday tried to clear up the confusion surrounding cornerback Charles Tillman’s injury during Friday’s exhibition against New England.
After Tillman left the game, the Panthers announced in the press box at Bank of America Stadium it was due to a head injury. But in his post-game news conference, Rivera said Tillman had the wind knocked out of him.
It turns out Tillman did sustain a concussion, and sat out Sunday’s practice while in the league’s concussion protocol.
Rivera said he was repeating what Tillman told him initially about having the wind knocked out of him.
“I basically told you guys what he told me,” Rivera said. “I felt kind of bad about having told you guys that when (trainers) said to me he did have a concussion and we did put him in the protocol.”
While leaving the practice field Sunday, Tillman said he felt good but declined to answer any questions about his concussion or how it happened.
About midway through the first quarter, Tillman grabbed the ball from Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson to intercept Tom Brady. At the end of his 37-yard return, Tillman took a big hit from tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, whose helmet appeared to strike the side of Tillman’s head.
Tillman played all or parts of two more series following the interception.
On the Patriots’ next offensive possession, Tillman was in for two plays before signaling to the sideline to come out. He threw up near the Panthers’ bench and sideline reporter Jordan Gross said he didn’t expect Tillman to play again.
However, Tillman was in for the Patriots’ three-and-out possession halfway through the second quarter before leaving the game for good.
Rivera said he wasn’t sure when Tillman’s head injury occurred.
“When we looked at the tape there was another play where it looked like he might have delivered a shot. So I’m not sure as far as when it did happen,” Rivera said. “But once he came back to the sideline the second time, that’s when I noticed.”
Tillman is the second Panthers player in the concussion protocol.
Offensive tackle Davonte Wallace, a first-year player from New Mexico State, has been out since early August with a severe concussion. Rivera said Wallace’s situation is similar to that of Matt Blanchard, a quarterback who was with the Panthers last year.
Blanchard was sidelined for nearly three months after his head slammed into the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium at the end of a scramble late in an exhibition loss to the Patriots last August.
8 players released
Carolina released eight players Sunday ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to trim the roster to 75.
Among the top names that were released were veteran tackle Tony Hills, linebacker Kevin Reddick and fullback Lee Ward.
“Tough day,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after Sunday afternoon’s practice. “All those guys did some nice things for us and gave us their best, and we appreciate it. For the most part, they’re not through yet. You just never know. Some of those guys may get opportunities again. We’ll see what happens.”
The Panthers added Hills after Jonathan Martin’s surprise retirement. Reddick played in all three exhibitions and had a role on special teams after forcing a fumble in a playoff game against Arizona. Ward, a fan favorite, was a blocking fullback for the team’s third-string offense.
Also released Sunday were receivers Avius Capers and Paul Browning. Capers, an Independence and Johnson C. Smith graduate, did not play Friday against the Patriots.
Defensive end Steve Miller, tight end Dallas Walker and punter Matt Wile were also released.
The Panthers now sit with 82 players and must get to 75 by Tuesday afternoon. They will cut six more players and, at that point, they will also place receiver Kelvin Benjamin on the injured reserve after he tore his ACL earlier this month.
▪ Rookie receiver Devin Funchess had one drop and couldn’t come down with another pass that would have been a touchdown as he worked with the second-string offense Sunday. Funchess tried to one-hand a touchdown pass from Derek Anderson against Carrington Byndom and couldn’t come up with it. Later, on another Anderson pass, Funchess jumped slightly early and let the ball go through his hands across the middle.
▪ Linebacker Jason Trusnik (calf), cornerback Melvin White (hamstring) and defensive end Arthur Miley (knee) did not practice. They joined the likes of center Ryan Kalil (knee), defensive back Colin Jones (groin), defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (foot), center Brian Folkerts (ankle) and tight end Richie Brockel (shoulder).
▪ Receiver Jarrett Boykin continued his sporadic play Sunday with two drops. He dropped one pass on a comeback route that bounced off his chest. Later he dropped an Anderson pass as he was on a knee at the sideline.
▪ Linebacker Luke Kuechly had a bandage on his left knee after he got cleated on a tackle against the Patriots. He participated fully in practice.
▪ Tight end Greg Olsen caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton against Luke Kuechly and Kurt Coleman. Olsen looked up at the last moment and found the pass and hauled it in over his shoulder. Newton did the Harlem Shake dance after throwing the touchdown.