Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

Brian Burns separates business and football

Brian Burns

ATLANTA — Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns didn't want to talk about the particulars of his business.

But it was the subtext to everything he said and did Sunday, from the days of quiet leading into the opener, to the loud yell he let out after his first sack of the game when he didn't hit his customary celebratory Spiderman pose.

"Raw emotion," Burns said.

He walked a fine line when talking about his business, as he's still in the midst of a contract negotiation with the Panthers. He skipped two days of practices (last Thursday and Monday), but has been on the field ever since. He admitted there was a time when he considered not playing, but he felt like he owed his teammates to come out Sunday in Atlanta.

And he did just that, filling up the stat sheet with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a quarterback hit, and a tackle for loss on running back Bijan Robinson. It was perhaps lost in the 24-10 loss in the opener, but Burns had a classic Burns game.

It was an eye-catching performance, but he said he relied on the advice of new teammate Justin Houston, who told him to shut out the noise and really think about what was important to him.

"I spent a lot of time with myself," Burns said of recent days. "I cut off the world for one important minute. I had some great advice from my friend Justin Houston; he gave me some great advice. Just cut off the world, and I talked to God.

"So that's what I did. And I played."

Burns made several references to a higher power in his press conference, his first remarks in over a week. He also said he planned to continue to play this year, whether he gets a new deal or not. He's under contract through this season, though the Panthers could elect to use the franchise tag on him next offseason if they don't reach a long-term deal.

"I'm playing, you know what I'm saying?" Burns said. "God's got his hands on me. He can protect me. I'm playing."

That was a relief to his Panthers teammates, who know how important Burns is to their fortunes this year.

"Yeah, I mean, you know, we all expected that, you know what I'm saying?" cornerback Donte Jackson said. "That's just the type of dynamic player he is.

"That's just the type of impact he makes on his defense, and that's what we expected."

Defensive tackle Derrick Brown described him as "super electric" and said that until the Falcons started game-planning away from Burns (going to more of a running and quick-passing game, not letting Desmond Ridder drop back much after he was sacked four times in the first half), Burns was dominant.

"I mean, every single day, man, Brian's our brother," Brown said. "Despite what was going on between him and the front office. So, I mean, I'll leave that to him, but on the field and off the field, that's my brother."

The respect Burns carries in the locker room was evident when he was voted a team captain last week, one of six players to get that honor.

"It means a lot," Burns said. "It means that they got my back, and as a leader, I try to show them that I got theirs.

"And that was one of the main reasons why I came to camp and did everything is to, more importantly, show them that I got them."

Head coach Frank Reich, who has tried to separate himself from the business of the Burns situation, said he wasn't surprised with the way Burns started the game.

"I thought Brian played like he practices," Reich said. "I think Brian played today like he practiced, and that's hard. He plays with something to prove out of practice every day. Did he have a little something extra to prove, given the situation? You'll have to ask him that question. But what I saw was that's how he practices.

"I mean, he's a great player. He's absolutely integral in every way, not just as a player, as a leader."

And based on his statements Sunday, he plans to continue playing, and he said that today wasn't different despite the context of the game.

"No, I don't feel like I have anything to prove," he said. "I feel like I've done what I needed to do, and I'm just being consistent, you know. I've just taken the next step in my game, and I want to dominate.

"So coming down that first quarter, first half, whatever, that's all that was on my mind was dominating. And I've just got to make sure I don't fall out when they change the game plan against me."

And though the business realities remain — he still doesn't have a new deal — he did acknowledge a different perspective. He was calm when discussing it, referring to Houston's advice and the copy of Tony Dungy's "An Uncommon Life" sticking out of his travel bag. Those things helped him separate from a long week, and have the game we're accustomed to seeing from him.

"Just understanding it, just understanding how things work," Burns said when asked about separating the business of football and football. "Like this was my first rodeo, but still, I know business is business, and you've got to leave your emotions at the door.

"So every time I came in, I tried to try my best to leave my emotions outside, leave it in my car. You know what I'm saying? Coming in with a clear mind, and business is business, and whatever happens, happens."

See the Panthers warm up before their Week 1 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

Related Content