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One Maryland player reportedly punched another at practice, but denies it was about DJ Durkin

Jordan McNair’s lawyer claims one thing about the incident, but multiple players who were present during the practice altercation have a different story.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

One Maryland football player reportedly punched another in the face during an altercation related to the players’ views on now-fired head coach DJ Durkin. Multiple Maryland players have since denied that the circumstances of the altercation were actually about their now former coach.

Maryland reinstated Durkin on Tuesday from a suspension that ran through eight games, then fired him Wednesday after intense public backlash overwhelmed attempts to shield the coach.

Offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death in June prompted the investigations that led to Durkin’s firing on Halloween.

The lawyer representing McNair’s family, Billy Murphy, was the first to speak about the incident.

Murphy said one punter punched another “viciously in the face” at practice Tuesday, requiring stitches and an MRI of a separated shoulder. Murphy identified the players involved in extended remarks to reporters, saying starting punter Wade Lees punched backup punter Matt Barber. But the circumstances around the incident were unclear, leading some to believe that the fight related to Durkin because “Murphy described Barber as a “whistle-blower” against Durkin.”

Nobody who’d normally be at a Maryland practice had named the players or elaborated much about the incident at the time Murphy first spoke, then a player who spoke with reporters Wednesday night, offensive lineman Johnny Jordan, said he wasn’t sure what had happened or if anything had. Defensive lineman Oseh Saine tweeted that Murphy was lying and working off lies from others.

Lees then tweeted that there was an altercation, but it wasn’t over Durkin.

And another of his teammates denied the Durkin allegation publicly as well.

From the school’s student newspaper, The Diamondback:

But the source told The Diamondback in a text message that Barber’s longstanding attitude problems left him with few allies on the team, and the fight was initiated after Barber “tried to bad talk a player” to Lees. When Lees “told him off,” the source said Barber jabbed at Lees, which began a brief altercation that was broken up by a coach.

The newspaper also reported:

“The scuffle lasted barely a few seconds with both guys throwing punches,” the source said. “Matt dislocated his shoulder when he missed swinging a punch.”

“This is an incredibly difficult time for our football student-athletes,” Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said in a statement that also didn’t name anyone involved. “However, we take any matters involving physical altercations extremely seriously. We are talking with the players involved and will take appropriate actions based on the facts.”

Almost all of the players who spoke to a Maryland commission investigating the culture of Durkin’s program remained anonymous in public.

Maryland players haven’t reached a consensus about Durkin. Some really liked him, some hated playing for him, and plenty were in between.

As Maryland’s investigators put it:

“As with virtually every question we posed to the stakeholders in the football program, our questions about the program’s culture elicited a broad spectrum of views.”

Some Maryland players walked out of the team meeting with Durkin after his initial reinstatement, and some tweeted to urge and then celebrate his firing.