CHARLOTTE – The original plan didn't involve first-round pick Brian Burns starting out as a starter.
He was going to rotate in behind veteran edge rushers Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin. But with Irvin battling a hamstring injury, Burns might be a starter in his first regular season game against the reigning NFC champion Los Angeles Rams.
Irvin, who didn't practice on Monday or Wednesday, declined to talk about his injury when reporters approached him Wednesday. Head coach Ron Rivera said the 31-year-old is still going through the rehab program. We'll see how the rest of the week unfolds.
In the meantime, the attention turns to Burns, who was asked how ready he feels to be a starter if needed.
"How ready? Very," Burns said.
Burns certainly looked ready throughout the preseason, posting four sacks, one of which was a strip-sack.
"He's prepared. He had a great camp," Irvin said of Burns. "The guy can play ball."
But we all know regular season football is a different deal. And Burns, who is still working to add strength and power, fully expects the Rams to challenge him in the run game.
"I'm going to rely on my training, rely on what my coaches have taught me thus far, and just do what I do," Burns said. "I'm going to watch film with some of the vets to really hone in on the Rams."
Being a Week 1 starter would obviously be meaningful for Burns – he admitted as much – but it doesn't change a whole lot for the 21-year-old Florida State product.
The Panthers are always going to utilize a rotation with their pass rushers. That means we can't forget about Marquis Haynes.
And if Irvin can't go, the 2018 fourth-round pick from Ole Miss will see his role increase.
"When my number is called I have to be ready to go. I have to go out there and perform," said Haynes, who played in just four games as a rookie. "I feel I'm very ready to showcase my talents and prove my redshirt year is over with and I can contribute to the team.
"I was a little bit nervous that first year. But I'm not nervous no more. Just have to let it loose."
Haynes, like Burns, recorded four sacks during the preseason. He looked far more comfortable than he did a year ago.
Now he and Burns will try to use their speed off the edge to make Rams quarterback Jared Goff uncomfortable on Sunday.
"Me and Burns, we talk every day at practice. We've established a bond," Haynes said. "We're like brothers and we know each other; we know how fast we are.
"We push each other and we're going to keep doing that every day."
View photos from Wednesday's practice in Charlotte before the Week 1 game against the Rams.