It’s a routine Greg Olsen is unfortunately too familiar with.
Olsen, the Panthers’ starting tight end, goes to the team facilities for four or five hours, including a two-hour practice, and then returns to Levine Children’s Hospital where his son, T.J., is recovering from heart surgery.
“It’s another week or so juggle being here and (at) the hospital,” said Olsen, who practiced Monday for the first time since Aug. 24. “We’ve done it before and unfortunately we’re experts. It’s been a week now. They told us from the beginning it may be up to three weeks.”
Olsen said T.J. is on track in his recovery, and though the week after T.J.’s third and final scheduled open-heart surgery has been “a bit of a roller coaster,” it’s mostly been “pretty positive.”
T.J. remains in the intensive care unit recovering from last week’s surgery. He was born in 2012 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect where the left side of the heart is underdeveloped.
When the Olsen family planned the surgeries, they knew they couldn’t wait until after the season or even the Week 12 bye. Olsen wasn’t going to leave his family, and he didn’t want to let his team down. So the week leading up to the final exhibition against Pittsburgh lent itself to an opportunetime for the surgery.
“When I spoke with coach (Ron) Rivera and (general manager) Mr. (Dave) Gettleman that this was the plan the doctors wanted, we had the luxury of trying to pick a week that, even though I knew I was going to have to miss time, try to miss time that in the grand purpose wasn’t too big of a deal to miss,” Olsen said.
“The team was very understanding of me stepping away for a week, and obviously it was important for me to be by my son.
“There was no magic answer. They didn’t say be back by a certain date. I just felt like things were pretty steady at the hospital for me to step away for four or five hours today and just head back there after.”
Captains named: For a second consecutive season, Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly are captains for the Panthers.
Rivera announced the six captains after a vote by the players. Along with Newton and Kuechly, center Ryan Kalil, linebacker Thomas Davis, defensive end Charles Johnson and Olsen were also named captains.
“You can look at them (Newton and Kuechly) both and say their credibility is there,” Rivera said. “Both have been NFL Rookie of the Year. Last year Luke was defensive player of the year. Cam’s a two-time Pro Bowler. You can go on and on about those things. I think it speaks for themselves who they are. I think their teammates see them as guys they want leading them.”
Newton, Kuechly, Davis and Kalil were captains last season, along with retired tackle Jordan Gross and receiver Steve Smith, who is now with the Baltimore Ravens. Gross and Smith were named captains emeritus, though Rivera said there was no such designation this year.
This is the first captaincy of Olsen’s career. Johnson was a captain in 2012 after linebacker Jon Beason went on injured reserve.
Receiver reinforcements? The Panthers worked out free-agent wide receivers Stephen Hill and Kadron Boone, although Rivera said the team does not plan to sign either of them immediately.
Hill and Boone were scheduled to spend the night in Charlotte and take physicals Tuesday, according to a league source. Rivera indicated the Panthers were looking at the wideouts as potential replacements in the event of injuries or inconsistent play at the position.
“We just brought guys in for workouts. You’ve got to look at guys and see how they fit you and see if there’s potential there,” Rivera said. “We have a ready list if something happens. We’ll probably bring in some other positions as well.”
Hill was the New York Jets’ second-round pick in 2012, a former Georgia Tech standout with good size (6-foot-4) and speed (timed at 4.36 seconds in the 40 at the combine).
But he struggled with drops during the preseason and was waived Saturday during the Jets’ final roster cuts. He cleared waivers, and he can sign with any team as a free agent.
Hill has a connection to Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl. Hill’s agent, Alan Herman, represented Proehl during his playing career.
Herman told the Observer on Saturday that Proehl could “do wonders” with Hill.
Hill caught 45 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns over 23 games in two seasons with the Jets. Given his upside, he’s worth a look for a team that turned over itsentire receiving corps.
Hill, 23, is two months younger than Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers’ first-round pick who was the clear No. 1 wideout during the preseason. Veterans Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery are possession receivers, and the Panthers lack a wideout who can stretch the field as Ted Ginn did last season.
The other two receivers the Panthers kept are former Wofford wideout Brenton Bersin and rookie Philly Brown, an undrafted free agent from Ohio State.
Boone signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent, but he was waived during the first round of cuts. The 6-foot, 205-pounder caught only seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns as a senior at Louisiana State, where he played behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
Some like it hot: The Panthers should head to Tampa, Fla., healthy as every player on the active roster participated in Monday’s practice. Defensive end Greg Hardy, who has been dealing with a bruised shoulder, took all of his scheduled reps but did not have any contact on the shoulder.
Rivera said he was encouraged by Hardy’s ability to do a full weightlifting workout that included shoulder exercises.
Rivera was also pleased with the hot and humid temperatures Monday in Charlotte, where the high of 95 was 3 degrees warmer than Tampa’s high. Rivera expressed concern in training camp that unseasonably cool temperatures in Spartanburg had not adequately prepared his team for the Week 1 conditions in Tampa.
The Panthers added an extra period – and a couple of extra water breaks – to Monday’s practice.
“We’ve been monitoring Tampa Bay’s weather, trying to keep an eye on it. It’s actually going to be warmer here this week than it is there right now,” Rivera said. “So we think it’s helping us.”
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