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Notebook: Brian Burns has high hopes for defense

Brian Burns

CHARLOTTE — Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns got through the preseason without playing a game.

Despite that, or perhaps because of that, he feels good about where the Panthers' defense is heading into the regular season.

"I haven't tackled somebody in a long time," Burns said with a grin when asked if he was ready for the regular season. "Very excited. I'm extremely excited; like I said, we have high expectations.

"I really think just defensively, . . . I don't even know what I want to say. I think we're going to shock the world."

Burns, along with Justin Houston, Derrick Brown, Shaq Thompson, and Frankie Luvu, were held out of the Lions game to close out the preseason. While Brown, Thompson, and Luvu had played some in August, the Panthers didn't get a glimpse of their top two pass-rushers all preseason. And with 149.5 career sacks just sitting there on the bench, ready to go, Burns' excitement is shared by many.

It's hard to get a gauge on this defense in the preseason, but their hopes for this unit remain high.

"I'm definitely excited for this season; I got high expectations," Burns said. "I would say the preseason is always, even if we all were out there, it's still going to be tough to tell where we're at because it's not really a lot of scheme. Just going into the game, it's really vanilla. I don't want to say we're going through the motions, but it's not, ... yeah, it's not the same."

Of course, there's some other important stuff on the horizon for Burns.

He's still hopeful of a new contract before the start of the final year of his rookie deal. The two sides have talked, but he offered no updates. But while other players in similar situations (specifically San Francisco's Nick Bosa) have stayed away from camp, Burns has been here all preseason and has practiced at his normal level of intensity (high).

"I want to be here, so always hopeful, but just at the moment, I don't have anything to say about the updates," Burns said. "I mean, no fault to anybody that's not participating.

"But, like I said, we got some special, and I'm a big part of it. So I can't, I can't miss no time. I've just got to be here. We've got a lot of things, a lot of things I want to accomplish a lot of goals, and, God willing, we reach those goals, but I've got to be here."

Adam Thielen

— Panthers wide receiver Adam Thielen caught the first touchdown of the year from Bryce Young, but he's still very much getting used to his new home.

Panthers head coach Frank Reich said Thielen appeared to lose one ball in the lights, which could have been a big play and would have made Young's night even better.

"Yeah, a couple of times the ball was in the lights, so I've definitely got to get used to that," Thielen said after the game. "Every stadium is different, like the heights of the lights. So I mean, certain balls, the height gets caught in the lights, but that's kind of standard. It's just getting used to it, you know?"

Of course, that's going to be important to get used to since the next game here will be the home opener on Monday Night Football against the Saints in Week 2. Thielen has played three regular season games in Bank of America Stadium when he was with the Vikings, but they were all 1 p.m. starts. So two preseason games here are the limit of his exposure.

"I think tonight helps, you know," he said. "Just having that experience out of the way, kind of knowing and then just kind of being ready."

— Reich didn't offer any injury updates on the existing situations, but he did say the most important words of any preseason game to open his press conference.

"No injuries to report, so I'll just go ahead and open it up," he began.

That's good news, since the Panthers had a lengthy list of inactives. But of all those injuries, the only player who seems certain to miss the Falcons game is guard Austin Corbett, who is coming back from a torn ACL.

— The Panthers were without three of their top receivers Friday night, with DJ Chark Jr. (hamstring), Terrace Marshall Jr. (back), and Laviska Shenault Jr. (concussion protocol) held out.

Shenault said after the game he expected to practice next week and definitely planned to be available for the Falcons game in Week 1.

Reich takes a different approach, saying that while he's worried about all his players, he knows he has to coach a game in two weeks regardless of who is available.

"You know, I'm trying to be optimistic on those things," Reich said. "You desperately want them to be healthy. But, I'm not desperate about if it happens or not, if that makes sense. You've just got to do what you've got to do. So we'll figure it out. If they're not healthy, you know, next man up, we'll figure out other ways to do what we got to do to be productive."

Check out photos of the Panthers during their preseason finale against the Lions.

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