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Carolina Panthers

Brian Burns taking away the positives from an up and down rookie year


CHARLOTTE – Brian Burns' rookie season taught him many things.

How to be a professional, what skills he needs to improve on, and not to punch the turf after a frustrating play. He also got a crash course in patience and perseverance.

Early on, Burns was in Defensive Rookie of the Year conversations. Everything was going perfectly for the first-round pick, who racked up 3.5 sacks in the Panthers' first five games and even scored a touchdown.

Then, things slowed down. Over the bye week Burns had a minor procedure on a lingering wrist injury he sustained in Week 4, and his season was never the same.

"You're kind of going to go through your ups and downs," Burns explained. "Mine was a little drastic, as hot as I started off and as bad as it got, but just to keep fighting and just keep pushing as strong as I could, that's all I can ask for."

Part of the reason Burns' playing time became so scarce late in the season stemmed from the massive club he was forced to wear following his surgery. At other times, though, the coaching staff opted for stronger, heavier linemen in an attempt to shore up the run defense. Even after recovering from his injury and shedding the restrictive club, there were times Burns would only see a handful of snaps.

"Starting like I did, that was a lot of playing time," Burns said. "I was making a name for myself, and then for my injury and my playing time to be cut, that was kind of a big deal in my opinion. Yeah, I'm disappointed, but I understand what the reasons were, I understand why, so, it is what it is. I just wanted to finish strong."

Burns finished the year with 23 tackles, a forced fumble and 7.5 sacks – even though he thinks that number should be higher. The goal Burns set for himself ahead of the season was at least 9.0 sacks.

"That should be 8.5, but the one from Atlanta doesn't count," Burns said, referencing his sack on the Falcons' two-point conversion attempt. "I'm saying that forever. That should be 8.5, but I'm not going to keep going on about it. I'm just blessed to have that much success, even through the ups and downs, so I'm just going to keep pushing and improve."

So, what does that path to improvement look like for Burns ahead of his second year? To be honest, there isn't an easy answer. Other than gaining a few pounds, there isn't one specific area Burns wants to focus on honing during the offseason.

"Pretty much everywhere, honestly. I feel like I left a lot of plays out there," Burns said. "From a technique standpoint, from holding on good weight, just becoming an every-down player, just proving myself. Taking my IQ to another level, that's part of the game, too. All of those aspects, I can have improvement in any aspect like that. That's just the main things I'm focusing on."

Despite the Panthers not achieving the results Burns had hoped his team would accomplish when he first arrived in Charlotte, there was still plenty for Burns to take from his rookie campaign.

"G-O (Greg Olsen) had a good speech last night that told us to take away something positive from the season, even though it didn't go how we planned," Burns said. "He was really speaking to me when he was saying that. I just looked back on everything I learned and the guys I played with and just realized I'm blessed regardless of how the season's going."

Now, it's time for Burns to turn his focus to replicating his success next season, and preferably without a club on his hand.

"It's going to be great," Burns joked. "I'm doing nothing but wrist exercises this whole offseason."

View photos of players cleaning out their lockers as the Panthers wrap up the 2019 season.