CHARLOTTE — Brian Burns often channels his superhero energy on the field.
On Nov. 10 against Atlanta, he might be playing the villain for a change.
The Panthers defensive end can't wait for the debut of the team's long-anticipated alternate black helmets on Thursday Night Football against the Falcons. And with the pairing of the new helmets with all-black color rush uniforms, Burns expects a different energy.
"Sometimes guys tap into an alter ego depending on what they're wearing," he said. "Whenever a team wears all black, or black accessories, it just brings out that dog in them, the evil side.
"When I saw this, I was like, 'This will be tough.' Especially on defense, they call us the dark side anyway, so it brings it all together."
Fans have been clamoring for the alternate helmet for years, and unveiling them after dark on national television creates the opportunity for what should be a unique atmosphere.
"Oh yeah, it matters. It sets the tone," safety Jeremy Chinn said of the new look. "Guys will be fired up, for sure. I know fans have wanted it for a long time.
"The all-black is one of my favorite uniforms anyway. So this is like the icing on top."
Details of the new look have been kept tightly under wraps, with just a few players in on the secret. Chinn was afraid he let something out recently in the locker room, during a conversation with cornerback Jaycee Horn which almost created too much of a stir.
"There's a lot of guys that don't even know," Chinn said. "I said something to Jaycee, and he was like, 'What, we've got black helmets?' 'Yeah, but don't tell anybody. If you don't know, I don't think you're supposed to know.'
"This is going to be a big deal for a lot of people."
There will be a few smatterings of contrast, like the white chin straps and small bumpers at the top of the facemask on the helmet which are mandated by the league, and the numbers and accent stripes on the jerseys. But the black-on-black is something the Panthers have never been able to use. In previous years, teams weren't allowed to wear alternate helmets at all, with the NFL requiring them to use one look for the entire season. Those rules were relaxed this year, and the Panthers will wear them once during the season, so a prime-time appearance against a division rival seemed like the perfect time.
And if fans get in on the look, wearing all-black in the stands under a nearly full moon when there could be a bit of a chill in the air, Burns thinks it could create a memorable night at Bank of America Stadium.
"I was excited. We needed a little splash of swag on the field," Burns said.
"It's going to be hype. It's time to get with it."
While there will be even more around the all-black look when the game approaches, fans can get into the action now by entering to win an authentic black helmet by clicking here.
View photos of the Panthers new black helmet and all-black uniform combination modeled by Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn.