CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have been thinned by injuries on the defensive front all year, and more are cropping up in the final few weeks.
Rhule described it as an MCL issue, and said Burns would likely be questionable this week as it stands at the moment.
Any absences on the line will be hard to cover, but time is too short to bring in replacements. Because of the league's COVID-19 protocols, it would take seven days to get any newcomers in, so any absences will likely have to be covered by guys on the practice squad.
Burns had a pair of sacks Saturday, getting him to eight for the season, and was part of a rejuvenated pass rush that sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, and helped limit him to a season-low 143 passing yards.
"I got in the game, and the defensive line started to rotate, and I said hey, you know what, we're in a dogfight," Rhule said. "We're down 21-3, who cares if you're tired in the fourth quarter, let's go fight to stay in this game.
"That was the game for a lot of our players. As miserable as it is to lose, a lot of guys grew up. I think Derrick took some steps, to go out there, take the jacket off, get on the field and go play."
Brown ended up earning his first two career sacks and also created interior pressure to set Burns up for his first of the night.
While no one was absolving quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for Saturday's fumble at the goal line — since Rhule has told players not to reach over the line unless it's fourth down — he did offer a note of grace for Bridgewater and a number of players.
In a situation like the Panthers are in (having lost eight of their last nine games), he said the tendency to press is natural because players want to change the results.
"Yesterday, (Bridgewater) got in a game, tried to make a play, and it hurt us," Rhule said. "But it's the same thing as a DB looking in the backfield instead of looking at his man. It happens all the time in football.
"I know where Teddy's heart is. I know he's trying to do the right thing. I know he's trying to win. I'm trying to get the entire team, not just him, not to do too much."
Rhule borrowed one of legendary coach Bill Parcells' favorite sayings when asked to assess his team with two weeks left, but put his own confident spin on it as well.
"When I say how are we doing this year, I say to myself, 'Shoot, we're 4-10,'" Rhule said. "I live by that. Bill Parcells said it, 'You are what your record says you are.' I could say close games, I could say injuries, I could say we didn't have this main player, I could say offseason.
"I could say all those things, but at the end of the day, you are what your record says you are. I'm a 4-10 coach. And I know I won't be a 4-10 coach for long. I know our staff won't be a 4-10 staff for long. I'm really proud of the constant effort. Say one thing about our staff and our team, they come back every week. There's never been a week where I'm not proud of our effort. Maybe not our execution at times, but not proud of our effort. That being said, we're 4-10."
View the best behind-the-scenes photos of the Panthers at Lambeau Field in Week 15.