Panthers’ linebacker Brian Burns says contract talks ‘on hold’


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As far outside linebacker Brian Burns is concerned talks between his representatives and the Carolina Panthers about a contract extension are “on hold.”

“We haven’t really been in talks,” Burns said Saturday as he prepared for Monday night’s NFC South game against the New Orleans Saints. “I told them once the season started I’m all about ball. I can’t give a thousand percent on the field and to my teammates if I’m still worried about contract negotiations.

“I feel like I owe that to them to be 100 percent, a thousand percent at all times.”

Burns admitted after getting two sacks in Sunday’s opener, a 24-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, that he considered a holdout. He didn’t because he feels like the Carolina defense can be special and he’s a big part of that.

The 16th pick of the 2019 draft never has wavered from wanting to be paid among the highest-paid edge rushers in the league. But when negotiations ended before the opener the sides weren’t close, according to multiple league sources.

Burns, 25, is playing under the fifth-year option of his rookie deal that pays him $16 million this season. According to a league source, the Panthers are willing to negotiate into the season.

Burns didn’t completely shut the door on listening, but when asked about his current contract strategy, he said, “We haven’t spoken on any strategy just yet. My main thought is just football.”

Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers averages $34 million after reaching a five-year, $170 million deal last week that made him the highest paid defensive player in league history.

T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers is second among edge rushers with an average of $28 million a year, followed by Joey Bosa ($27 million) of the Los Angeles Chargers, Myles Garrett ($25 million) of the Cleveland Browns and Khalil Mack ($23 million) of the Chargers.

Burns can’t wait to showcase his talents on Monday night to show he should be in that elite company.

“That’s always a goal,” Burns said of his first-ever Monday night game. “In these prime-time games, everybody’s watching. It’s always a goal to show them what you can do and put the league on notice.

“But I want to put the league on notice more from a defensive standpoint than just myself. I want them to know how we are on defense.”

Burns said the contract won’t be on his mind Monday night.

“I would say it’s in the back, but way, way in the back,” he said. “My main thing has always been to level up my game and really dominate games. That’s all my focus is on.

Burns and the Carolina defense will be without starting cornerback Jaycee Horn, who suffered a hamstring injury in the opener. Horn had what coach Frank Reich on Saturday called “a procedure” and was placed in injured reserve that will keep him out at least four weeks.

The prognosis likely is longer.

“I don’t know the exact timetable, but we are optimistic that we have a chance to get him back this season and help us this year,” Reich said.

Carolina also will be without starting left guard Brady Christensen, who suffered a season-ending triceps injury against Atlanta. Reich said his starting guards will be Cade Mays and Chandler Zavala, but declined to specify which side they would be on.

Zavala, a rookie out of North Carolina State, started the opener at right guard in place of Austin Corbett, who began the season on the physically unable to perform list. But he spent his college career at left guard, where in 2021 he started next to Ikem Ekwonu, Carolina’s 2022 first-round pick and now starting left tackle.

Carolina is expected to get back starting wide receiver DJ Chark, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury. Right tackle Taylor Moton, who suffered a biceps injury in the opener, also is expected to play.

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