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Carolina Panthers

Training Camp Observations: Day 10

Justin Houston, Brian Burns

SPARTANBURG — Justin Houston wasted no time doing one of the things he does best.

After his first practice as a member of the Panthers, he grabbed new teammate Brian Burns and continued the education of the young star outside linebacker. Burns has always been one to pick the brains of any pass-rusher who crosses his path, and now he has daily access to one of the best.

So when they immediately started talking about the finer points of their craft, it was no surprise to Panthers coach Frank Reich.

Reich coached Houston for two seasons in Indianapolis and said as good as he was as a player, he excelled as a leader and a teacher.

"Really excited to have Justin," Reich said. "Justin is – really to add to that group. That group has been really good in camp, feel like the development of that group has been outstanding. And now, to get to add Justin to the group is a big deal. He's a physical specimen. He's an incredibly smart football player. He's a leader; he's the ultimate competitor. . . .

"Obviously, his production speaks for itself. And so he's been productive in multiple ways. So one of the things that I know about Justin is he's not only a great player, but he's a great teammate and a great mentor. He loves sharing his experience and helping the younger guys. So that's a big deal because we got some young guys who were really excited about. And so bringing Justin into the mix, to have him do what he's going to do on the field, but yet help bring those young guys around. That's important to us."

Houston is comfortable with the role, though the emphasis remains on the fact he can play. He had 9.5 sacks for the Ravens last season, and the 34-year-old is 27th in league history with 111.5 sacks in 12 seasons.

So with Burns on the other side, the Panthers can now put 149.5 career sacks on the field at the same time.

Houston was enthusiastic about working with his new partner, who represents a contrast in styles.

Burns has the kind of pure off-the-line speed, while the 270-pound Houston's ability to turn speed to power helps him win in multiple ways.

"I think he's a leader. I love the way he practices. I love the way he works," Houston said of Burns. "I think I'm going to love playing with him. It's been a while. That kind of talent doesn't come around often.

"I think everybody sees and knows the sky's the limit for that kid. So I think it's a situation that we can help each other."

— Reich said that to start, Houston would be a "rotational player," mentioning several times he likes the makeup of the group — especially now that they've added a veteran of Houston's caliber.

Between Marquis Haynes Sr. (still sidelined dealing with a back issue), rookie DJ Johnson, Yetur Gross-Matos, Amaré Barno, and others, the Panthers have a solid base of young players for Houston to teach.

Justin Houston

— For Houston, the decision to come here was mostly about one thing.

"Coach Frank," Houston replied simply. "That was simple when Coach Frank made the phone call. I knew right then as soon as the call, I hung up the phone and I told my wife, 'We're going to Carolina.' So it was an easy decision.

"He's a stand-up guy; what you see is what you get. And he's, he's going to be straightforward, a guy that you know you can count on. I think that, like I said, the biggest thing is trust. I want somebody I can trust."

— Reich said that the hamstring injury suffered by wide receiver Damiere Byrd was "pretty significant" and said that Byrd would likely miss "more than a month" before eventually mentioning a 6-to-8-week absence.

Reich said that Byrd might need to get a procedure to correct the problem.

That's a tough blow for the veteran wideout, who was making his homecoming after playing here from 2015-18.

Elsewhere on the injury front, outside linebacker Jordan Thomas was again out of practice and was wearing a brace on his left thumb.

Rookie offensive lineman Chandler Zavala is still working his way back into condition, so he was on the side field with Austin Corbett during much of practice. Since he was only recently activated from the physically unable to perform list, it's reasonable to think he might not play in the preseason opener against the Jets.

— You never know what you're going to see in the autograph line.

Already this camp, Bryce Young has signed a baby, and Burns signed a dog.

But Tuesday, left tackle Ikem Ekwonu seemed a little surprised when a fan along the fence removed his prosthetic leg and offered it for a signature.

Ekwonu dutifully signed and posed for photos with the fan.

Prosthetic leg, Ikem Ekwonu

— Tuesday's alumni roll included former running back Richard Huntley and defensive back Leonard Wheeler.

Many more are expected tomorrow for the joint practices with the Jets.

— Wide receiver Derek Wright had a couple of impressive catches Tuesday. He caught a deep ball from Matt Corral earlier in practice and closed out the day's proceedings with a touchdown grab from Andy Dalton.

— Right tackle Taylor Moton and linebacker Frankie Luvu had the bucket hats on Tuesday, getting the veteran day off treatment.

Cameron Erving worked in Moton's place, while Luvu's place was filled by a few different players, with Kamu Grugier-Hill, Chandler Wooten, and Brandon Smith plugging in with the first defense in different packages.

— Speaking of Wooten, he went through practice in his familiar No. 50 jersey, but that might not be the case for long.

Houston has worn that number throughout his 12-year career, so it seems reasonable to expect he would continue to do that here.

— While so much attention will be paid to the joint practices with the Jets, Reich said he was impressed with the way the team practiced Tuesday after two straight padded practices and then a day off.

"So today could have been a trap day, where you're just kind of mentally taking the day off," he said. " So I thought the guys came out. I thought this was one of our better practices, both on defense and offense and special teams. I thought in all three phases; we were sharp, we were crisp, good preparation for the joint practices."

View photos of players arriving to practice on Tuesday.

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