SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Cornerback Ross Cockrell broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg at the end of Monday's training camp practice. He'll undergo surgery and is expected to miss the 2018 season.
Cockrell was injured when his leg was caught underneath wide receiver Torrey Smith, who went to the ground to make a catch in the front of the end zone.
"It's the unfortunate nature of this game, and hopefully he'll be all right in due time," head coach Ron Rivera said.
Cockrell, a Charlotte native, signed a two-year contract in March a week after the Panthers' deal with free agent corner Bashaud Breeland fell through. Cockrell then entered a competition with Kevon Seymour and second-round pick Donte Jackson for the open starting spot across from James Bradberry.
Cockrell, who spent time with the Bills, Steelers and Giants in his first four seasons, quickly impressed defensive coordinator Eric Washington, who often showed tape of the corner's hustle during film sessions.
"(Coach Washington's) nickname he gave him was 'Pro.' He does everything the right way," Bradberry said, "hustles, gets in his playbook, knows the defense and does everything a veteran would do."
Cockrell's injury was the second serious incident in three practices for the Panthers. Right tackle Daryl Williams is out indefinitely after suffering a dislocation and torn MCL in his right knee.
"This is a tough one cause (Cockrell is) such a good person, too. That's what makes it hard when good guys like he and Daryl go down," Rivera said. "You wish these things wouldn't happen."
As trainers tended to Cockrell, Washington huddled his defense together to say a prayer.
"He represented the energy, he represented the system," Washington said. "Our system being the way we want to do things – our culture. The highest standard of our culture on defense.
"We're going to close ranks and represent exactly who he is with our play. We're going to close ranks as a defense, and we're going to perform because we love him."