Source — Panthers’ Brian Burns likely to play in season opener

ATLANTA — Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Burns is expected to play in Sunday’s opener against the Atlanta Falcons even though he has not gotten a new contract, a league source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Saturday.

Burns was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after sitting out the previous two practices for what coach Frank Reich called a “personal matter.” He traveled with the team to Atlanta on Saturday.

Reich alluded earlier this week that the reason Burns didn’t practice had to do with his contract. He also said Burns has been a complete “professional” throughout the process of getting ready for Atlanta amid the situation.

But he always stopped short of saying Burns would play on Sunday, emphasizing he did not want to speak for his sack leader.

“Everybody wants a full squad out there and no injuries to deal with and no absences to deal with. … But this is just normal life in the NFL,” Reich said on Friday. “When we get there Sunday, the guys that are there, we will do everything we can to go out there and win a football game.”

Burns is in the fifth year of his rookie deal that will pay him $16 million. He said during offseason workouts he wants to be among the highest-paid edge rushers in the NFL.

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Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers is now the highest-paid edge rusher, averaging $34 million per year after reaching a five-year, $170 million deal on Wednesday.

T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers is second 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.

With the exception of sitting out the two practices on Monday and the previous Thursday, Burns participated in every practice during training camp.

“This is personal, but I’ve been working on my relationship with God,” Burns recently said when asked why he hadn’t held out. “I left it in his hands. I just did everything I could in my power to be on this field with my teammates. I feel if you live the right way, good things will happen to you.”

Burns is coming off a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2022. His goal for this season is to break the team single-season sack record — 15 by Kevin Greene in 1998 — and he believes that is possible as Carolina transitions from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 that features the outside linebacker.

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