Many Maryland Players Dispute Report of Fight at First Practice Following DJ Durkin's Return


Many Maryland players refuted a Thursday report where punter Matt Barber said he was assaulted by a teammate at DJ Durkin’s first practice back for his “whistleblower” role in speaking to investigators.

Starting punter Wade Lees, who was previously alleged to be the aggressor, tweeted that the reports about the fight between him and Barber are “far from the truth.”

“There are many inaccuracies in the way he portrays the day,” Lees tweeted. “Additionally, the altercation had nothing to do with Coach Durkin’s reinstatement.”

Barber, a backup punter, told the The Baltimore Sun that he was “assaulted” at Tuesday’s practice by an unnamed teammate that supported Durkin. Barber had previously spoken out against the culture with the program. The teammate he accused did not respond to the Sun‘s requests for comment, but multiple sources confirmed to the newspaper that an altercation took place.

Maryland senior linebacker Tre Watson called the report “a piece of fabrication” in a tweet Thursday afternoon. Watson’s tweet was retweeted by Ellis McKennie, a junior offensive lineman who was close friends with former teammate Jordan McNair. On Thursday afternoon McKennie more overtly denied the claims, tweeting that the story was a lie.

On Wednesday, Billy Murphy, the McNair family’s lawyer, first alleged that a fight broke out at Tuesday’s practice when Lees punched Barber.

Junior defensive lineman Oseh Saine tweeted Wednesday night that Murphy’s account of the fight was false.

Saine weighed in again on Thursday, claiming that the fight “had everything to do with [Barber] picking a on younger players [sic].”

Several other members of the Terps team also took to social media to dispute the story. A few of the tweets are below:

Barber also told the Sun that some teammates labeled him as a “whistle-blower” who talked to investigators. He claimed that Durkin supporters “taunted” him and threw footballs at him when the coach returned to practice Tuesday.

The punter told the Sun that players held his arms behind his back while the player punched him in the face multiple times, causing him to sustain a black eye, dislocated shoulder and require stitches on his forehead.

“My jersey was bloody,” Barber said. “I had blood all over my hands.”

Barber said he was attacked around 6 p.m. near the end of practice and was tended to by athletic trainers. The punter told the Sun that he spoke to a campus police officer. However, campus police did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

“We take any matters involving physical altercations extremely seriously,” athletic director Damon Evans said in a statement. “We are talking with the players involved and will take appropriate actions based on the facts.”

On Tuesday, Maryland’s board of regents recommended for Durkin to be reinstated, which university president Wallace Loh accepted. Multiple players reportedly walked out of the team meeting in which Durkin’s return was announced.

After public backlash grew, the university fired Durkin Wednesday night.

Questions regarding Durkin’s handling of the football program began after McNair died on June 13, two weeks after collapsing from a heatstroke at a team workout. The university announced they were opening an investigation into the events surrounding McNair’s death.

On Aug. 10, ESPN published an explosive in-depth report detailing a “toxic culture” of intimidation and abuse in the program under Durkin, who was placed on administrative leave the next day. Maryland announced on Aug. 14 that it would investigate the allegations, and the board assumed control of the investigation three days later.

Last week, the regents concluded the probe, finding there were failures within the program but it was not “toxic.”



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