CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) – Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns imagines driving around the Wofford College campus next summer at training camp in his tricked new golf cart waving to his teammates .
This will mean that he has won “the bet”.
Burns and new Panthers passing thrower Haason Reddick have made a pre-season bet on who will have the most sacks this season. The loser buys the winner a new golf cart – with accessories – for next summer.
“I’ve told him before how I wanted mine done – black and purple and all speckled,” Burns said with a laugh.
“I’m keeping an eye on him,” Reddick said of having Burns in the rearview mirror.
The competition also benefits the team, as the Panthers’ 10 sacks are the best in the league and their defense ranks first in total yards allowed, rushing yards and runs allowed.
The bet is a lot of fun and the two players help each other to be successful.
In fact, no one was happier with Reddick’s arrival than Burns. Reddick had 12 sacks last season with the Arizona Cardinals, but chose to sign with the Panthers as a free agent, joining former Temple coach Matt Rhule in Carolina. His signing was meant to keep some of Burns’ doubles teams away, who still managed nine sacks last season despite little help from his teammates.
When they’re not talking about golf carts, they’re talking about football – especially for the quarterback.
“We’re always talking about rushing passes,” Reddick said. “All day, every day, every time we see each other. When we are in practice, during the game, we constantly talk about the pass rush.
“How we are set by the tackles on each side, what worked, what didn’t. Always picking each other’s brain and trying to see, OK, you use that (move) and then let me see if I can use that and beat them with that.
Burns said, “If I see he’s having any success with this shot on this particular guy, I’ll ask him about it and try the shot myself. Or if I see something, I’ll say, ‘hey, that didn’t work because (the offensive lineman) is sitting heavily inside, or whatever. It only sharpens our IQ.
Rhule hadn’t heard of the bet until he was told about it at a press conference on Tuesday.
He said he liked what he saw of the two players, but added that Carolina’s early season success is a product of the 11 players playing together.
And he’s right. The Panthers received a good push from defensive tackles Derrick Brown, DaQuan Jones and Bravvion Roy, while Jeremy Chinn and Shaq Thompson were productive on the blitz. Carolina cornerback duo Donte Jackson and Jaycee Horn have been stellar in coverage.
“When you look at our defense right now, it’s everyone – it’s the cover, the guys inside pushing the pocket.” said Rhulé. “This is one of the things I wanted our team to understand: you win if everyone does their job. If we are successful as a team, you will be successful as individuals.
In 1996, Carolina had one of the best passing rush tandems in league history with Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon.
The duo were called “Salt and Pepper” and had a similar sack bet involving direct money. Greene led the league with 14 1/2 sacks and Lathon tied for second at 13 1/2, helping the Panthers reach the NFC Championship game in their second season only.
But unlike Lathon and Greene, who were similarly sized and played the outside linebacker in a 3-4 pattern, Carolina’s new rushers have very different builds and play different positions. Burns is a 6-foot-5, 252-pound chiseled defensive end, while Reddick is a much shorter 6-foot-1, 235-pound outside linebacker.
Either way, both were effective in reaching the quarterback.
Burns would have been tied with Reddick for the lead on Sunday had his fumble over Jameis Winston not been called off and deemed incomplete.
“The umpires hate me,” Burns said with a laugh.
So who will win the bet?
“Oh, I’m not (answering) that,” Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson said. “I hope they both win. This means more passages in the air for us (in the secondary) to intercept.
NOTES: The Panthers have placed starting left goalie Pat Elflein (hamstrings) in the injured reserve, so Dennis Daley will start Thursday night against the Texans. Rhule also said defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (ankle) will not play this week.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL