Panthers' Brian Burns not practicing amid contract stalemate

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two-time Pro Bowl selection Brian Burns sat out his second straight scheduled practice Monday, and there are no guarantees the Carolina Panthers outside linebacker will be on the field for Sunday's opener against the Atlanta Falcons if he doesn't have a new contract.

Coach Frank Reich, once again, called Burns choosing not to practice a "personal matter'' just as he did Thursday before the team took a three-day break.

But when asked what changed with Burns between Wednesday, when he did practice, and now, Reich said, "I'm not involved in the contract negotiations. At all. I have zero [input].''

Reich added that owner David Tepper and general manager Scott Fitterer asked for his "certain views'' on the situation, which he expressed.

"I'm just worried about getting my team ready to play Atlanta,'' Reich said. "Do I hope he is there? Absolutely, I hope he is there. If he's not there, I'm not worried about it. Just move forward."

Burns, 25, is scheduled to make $16 million this season after the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option as the 16th pick of the 2019 draft. He is seeking a long-term deal that will make him among the top paid edge rushers in the NFL.

He was at Bank of America Stadium for team meetings Monday, just as he was Thursday, making this more of a hold-in than a holdout. Approached during the media's open locker room session, Burns said, "I ain't got nothing to tell you.''

His decision not to participate in the last two practices came after he participated in all offseason workouts and training camp.

"This is personal, but I've been working on my relationship with God,'' Burns said last week when explaining why he didn't hold out then. "I left it in his hands. I just did everything I could in my power to be on this field with my teammates. I feel if you live the right way, good things will happen to you.''

Burns' situation is somewhat tied to San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, who is holding out while he seeks a new deal. The 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and league sack leader (18.5) is expected to be the highest paid edge rusher in the league.

T.J. Watt, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, leads all edge rushers with an average of $28 million a year, followed by Joey Bosa ($27 million) of the Los Angeles Chargers, Myles Garrett ($25 million) of the Cleveland Browns and Khalil Mack ($23 million) of the Chargers.

Burns is coming off a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2022. His goal for this season is to break the team single-season sack record -- 15 by Kevin Greene in 1998 -- and believes that is possible as Carolina transitions from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 that features the outside linebacker.

Reich called Burns a "stud'' last week for the way he's handled everything and practiced while negotiations were ongoing.

"My view of Brian Burns doesn't diminish at all,'' Reich said. "We understand there is a business side to this thing we do, and I still respect and admire the way he had handled himself. I have nothing but the highest regard for Brian Burns."

Outside linebacker Shaq Thompson expects Burns to be back on the field by Wednesday when the team begins fully implementing the game plan for Atlanta.

"Everybody here knows, everybody outside of here knows, everybody in the stands know, everybody above us knows he deserves what he should get paid,'' Thompson said. "They know to make it right before Week 1.

"We know he's gonna be out there at the end of the day. He knows he's gonna be out there at the end of the day. Everybody upstairs better know he better be out there by Wednesday. He's a big factor in this defense. He's the one it really starts with.''

Fitterer turned down two first-round picks for Burns last year before the trade deadline because he believed the former Florida State star was a key piece for the team moving forward.

Burns' role became even more important Monday, when Marquis Haynes (back) was placed on injured reserve. Haynes was expected to be the top backup behind 34-year-old outside linebacker Justin Houston opposite Burns.

If Burns doesn't play, the Panthers will have to rely on rookie DJ Johnson, Yetur Gross-Matos or starting inside linebacker Frankie Luvu at his position.

"I think you have to prepare for all options,'' Reich said. "You have to think the best and hope the best but prepare for all options."