CHARLOTTE — There might have been a number of people worrying about the trade deadline earlier this week, but Brian Burns wasn't among them.
The Panthers defensive end said he wasn't really focused on Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline, as plenty of rumors swirled about his future, as he wasn't watching television and wasn't staying glued to his phone for updates.
"I wasn't too much looking for it," Burns said Thursday. "I wasn't looking for it at all, you feel me? I want to stay, so I wasn't looking for it.
"I want to stay with my guys; I love Charlotte. It would break my heart to leave my defense. We've been so close, and I feel like we've got something special on defense for sure."
While there was speculation all over the internet, Burns said the fact the Panthers didn't move any of the young defensive core of players (like him and defensive tackle Derrick Brown) speaks to what they're putting together here.
"I think it says that they see a lot of, I would say, potential, but we've also done a lot of things together, and this is a strong core," Burns said. "And they believe in this core for the future. So I would say they believe in us and want to keep us together because we can do some great things together."
Now, it's a matter of doing some against the Bengals, after a frustrating finish to the Atlanta game, which he put on his own shoulders earlier this week.
Interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said Thursday that scramble by Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota last week was simply the result of a "missed tackle," as Burns took ownership for.
"I appreciate that Brian takes responsibility for that," Holcomb said. "But at the end of the day, we had what we felt was a good call, and we just didn't execute it at a level we should have.
"Brian is a fantastic player, love him. Glad we have him here, we just continue to preach fundamentals and getting better at little details."
Holcomb also made it clear that Burns is the kind of player they can still develop, since the 24-year-old has such a mind for the game.
"His football IQ is really high," Holcomb said when asked about how Burns responds to instruction. "He understands the game at a high level. Not just his position but some of the positions around him. So when you're talking to him, it's almost like you're talking to another coach in a sense. He gets it.
"Typically, you say something to Brian one time, and he understands what you're trying to get done and what you're trying to get accomplished. He also has really good ideas in terms of what if we tried it this way or that way, to see it through the player's lens and how they see things."
— Backup quarterback Baker Mayfield had a new look Thursday, shaving his beard down to a tight Fu Manchu mustache. It was a very Dodgeball look.
"It's pretty powerful, isn't it?" Mayfield said with a grin. "It's a lot of responsibility for one man to handle."
The former Sooners quarterback said he's been rocking the same look since 2015, in honor of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry, which he may have mentioned to teammate Chuba Hubbard as the former Cowboys running back recovers from an ankle injury.
"It's November, I like to think of it as championship November in Norman, Oklahoma," Mayfield said. "I was messing with Chuba Hubbard. I always shaved it for the Oklahoma State game. Just to get his mind on it, maybe get him pissed off, so he comes back this week."
He also insisted he wasn't upset about not returning to the starting job, and is trying to do whatever he can to support starter PJ Walker at the moment.
"It's obviously different, but this place has been nothing but open arms for me," Mayfield said. "I care about winning right now. We'll see what happens. This is a great place. I would love to be here, but a lot of that stuff is out of my control. So handle what I can, control what I can, and stay in the moment. . . .
"It's a different role for me for sure, but just finding my way through it."
— Running back D'Onta Foreman has clearly taken advantage of the increased workload in the two weeks since the Christian McCaffrey trade, with a pair of 118-yard rushing games, and three touchdowns and a two-point conversion against the Falcons.
It's a departure from his early season workload, as he never got more than two rushing attempts in a game until Week 6 against the Rams and only got five that week. He got 15 carries against the Buccaneers and 26 against the Falcons, confirming the notion that he's a back who needs carries to get into a rhythm.
"He's a big man, and he runs physical," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "He gets a feel for the game as the game goes on. I'm not sure I'm going to say he can't come in and spot-play. But I just think he's a big man, and he's a lot to handle for the opponent. You have to be pretty sure; you have to have the right frame of mind if you want to come in and tackle him. He's a big strong runner, and he has great balance, too. That really helps him.
"And as the game goes on, and as he gets a feel for how our guys up front are matching and you get him a couple of reps and repeated runs, he seems to do a pretty good job there getting a feel and knocking a hole when it's not there and reading it out and setting up some big bounces. And he has some surprising speed out there on the edge as well."
He showed that with a 60-yard burst against the Bucs, but as McAdoo noted, his physical style has defined him the last two weeks.
Check out the best photos from Thursday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Bengals this weekend.