CHARLOTTE – Only three NFL teams have blocked punts this season.
Panthers rookie Brian Burns has already tipped two.
But honestly, it’s not unexpected.
The first-round pick from Florida State showed a knack for blocks in college.
He blocked his first punt as a freshman. Then he blocked two punts and two kicks as a sophomore.
This in addition to racking up sacks and tackles for loss as an emerging star on the Seminoles’ defense.
“He’s so athletic. He can create surge with athleticism and bend,” then FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said of Burns. “He’s extremely athletic, now. And he’s long.”
Fisher and his staff knew they had something special in Burns, and coaches are often reluctant to put star players on special teams with the injury risk.
But Burns said he wanted to be out there to defend punts and kicks.
“My first year they put me on it after I asked to be on it,” Burns recalled. “I did it in high school, too. When I was stepping into a larger role my junior year they took me off, but I asked to be put back on.”
Burns is proving to be a problem for punters in the NFL. The NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month has already got his hand on two punts, both in Week 1 and most recently in the win at Houston, to go along with his 2.5 sacks.
His explosion off the ball combined with his length makes him a real threat if punt teams aren’t careful.
“I feel like it’s a big momentum change. I take it seriously,” Burns said. “I like to get after punters. With that field position, you could set up a score. That could be the difference.
“I’m gonna keep harassing these kickers as much as I can.”