CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers deny that any member of the team taunted New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with a baseball bat before Sunday’s game.
Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said the team’s defensive backs regularly bring a baseball bat on the field during pre-game warmups to get motivated for opponents because it “represents them bringing the wood and making home run plays on defense.”
Panthers cornerback Josh Norman was involved in several altercations during the game with Beckham, who was suspended for one game by the league on Monday. Beckham threw several punches during the game and put a blindside helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman. Norman was flagged once for unsportsmanlike conduct but not suspended.
Drummond said the bat tradition is “nothing new.”
He noted that the team’s defensive backs gathered in a huddle around the bat — and all touched it for good luck — before Carolina’s 38-0 win against Atlanta on Dec. 13.
Photos emerged on Monday on the Internet of practice squad player Marcus Bell and Norman holding the bat on the field before the game.
Drummond said players took the bat to New York as a way of remembering cornerback Bene Benwikere, who suffered a season-ending broken leg against Atlanta.
Benwikere also spoke out on Twitter Monday, posting a photo of himself holding a wooden black bat before the game against the Falcons. He wrote: “Coaches and players in every sport use objects as symbols of motivation the bat is a symbol.”
It’s not uncommon for NFL teams to have baseball bats on the field.
Running back Reggie Bush, now a 49er, ran on to the field at the Superdome before the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals holding a black wooden bat.
Earlier that week coach Sean Payton gave every player a bat with the words “Bring the Wood!” emblazoned on the barrel of each one.
The Raiders have also brought out bats before playoff games in the past as a source of motivation and symbolism.
The bat apparently lost some of its mojo on Sunday as the Giants rallied from a 28-point second half deficit. The Panthers escaped on a last-second field goal by Graham Gano to remain undefeated.
Carolina (14-0) has won 18 straight regular season games and can wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs on Sunday with a win at Atlanta.