Panthers' Burns starts against Falcons after contract issue left status uncertain

ATLANTA (AP) — Carolina Panthers two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Burns started in Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons and made an immediate impact after his status had been uncertain because of his unsettled contract situation.

Burns was one of the team's captains for the pregame coin toss and he was on the field for the Panthers' first defensive snap and had a sack and forced fumble against Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder on third down. Ridder recovered the fumble.

Burns participated in his third straight practice on Friday. He stood to lose nearly $900,000 for every game he missed while hoping to negotiate a contract extension.

Burns is in the final year of his rookie contract. He is due $16 million this season, but he’s seeking a large contract extension.

The uncertainty about Burns' status grew when he sat out his second straight practice on Monday before returning later in the week.

Burns has 38 sacks in his first four seasons with the Panthers. Only Julius Peppers has had more sacks for the team in his first four seasons.

As expected, Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah was held out with a foot injury. Running back Cordarrelle Patterson, listed as a “Joker” on Atlanta's latest depth chart because of his versatility as a wide receiver and return specialist, also was held out with a soft tissue injury.