CHARLOTTE – The Panthers are, once again, heading into a game with a number of injured players and uncertainty swirling around their defense.
Star outside linebacker Brian Burns popped up on Thursday's injury report with an elbow, and he didn't practice Friday, receiving a questionable designation for this week's game.
"He had a kind of a little thing happened yesterday on a play where he hurt his elbow," Panthers head coach Frank Reich said. "Got it checked out, just today was still an issue. So getting further evaluation on that to try to see where we're at. . . .
"I really don't have any of that information at this point. I've been told there's a chance he could play, but it just all depends on what the test results show."
But there are more defensive regulars Carolina is going to have to consider replacing when facing the league's fifth-best passing offense and 12th-best total offense (in yardage) as the Texans come to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. Nickel cornerback Jeremy Chinn also landed on IR this week with a quadriceps injury, while cornerback Jaycee Horn remains there with a hamstring.
They do return safety Xavier Woods, a critical communicator in the secondary, which should help as the defensive backfield continues to rally around cornerbacks Donte Jackson, CJ Henderson, and Troy Hill, along with Sam Franklin Jr. at safety.
With all the absences, it puts a heavier burden on the veterans who remain. Reich said Frankie Luvuin particular offered a sense of energy the team needs in such an uncertain situation.
"Frankie, he's an anchor," Reich said. "He's an anchor as a player, as a leader. His energy, his play is a big deal. We all see it, recognize it. So as we've had moving parts, he keeps everybody together. He really does. We're out there on the practice field. He's got energy on every play. He's working hard. The guys, I think we all feed off in that, see that. Just a tremendous leader."
View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.