The Carolina Panthers squeezed enough upheaval into one week to last a season.
General manager fired. Ex-GM hired on an interim basis. Longtime pro scouting director sent packing.
As a team leader and captain, Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen decided not to pile on.
When Panthers players pulled up to Wofford’s dorms Tuesday morning in their Oregon-themed sedans (Jonathan Stewart), SUVs with private drivers (Julius Peppers) or family sedans with their moms along for the ride (rookie WR Curtis Samuel), there was Olsen in his floppy hat and T-shirt championing his work with children’s heart patients.
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Olsen said he thought “long and hard” about holding out of his seventh training camp with the Panthers to put pressure on the organization to rework his contract.
Then last week happened.
“It really came down to, with everything going on ... and the slight chaos that went around for another week, I just didn’t feel it was right for me to add fuel to that fire, make things that much more complicated, add any more distraction or controversy to our team,” Olsen said.
Olsen and linebacker Thomas Davis were pulled into the events of last week when the Observer and other news outlets reported their contract situations represented the final straw in owner Jerry Richardson’s decision to can Gettleman.
Both players said they didn’t think they had that kind of sway. But the fact that a former and future NFL Man of the Year – and two of Richardson’s favorite players – were grumbling publicly could not have helped Gettleman’s standing.
While Olsen spoke to the media shortly after checking in to camp, Davis arrived a little later after reporters had dispersed.
Entering the final year of his contract, Davis’ situation carries more urgency than that of Olsen, who has two years left on his deal. The Panthers were working on an extension for the 34-year-old Davis before Gettleman was fired, and those talks have continued under interim GM Marty Hurney, sources said.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said having Davis and Olsen in camp from Day 1 sets a tone for the rest of the team.
“This is one of those things where guys can look at and say,' In spite of what has gone on, these guys are here to do what they need to do because they are professionals,’” said Rivera, adding that he never expected either player to hold out.
I just didn’t think my selfishness would do any good for the betterment of the team.
Greg Olsen, on his decision not to hold out of Panthers training camp
Olsen met with Hurney last week and the two had a “good talk,” according to Olsen.
But Olsen said no promises were made, and Olsen expects to play out a contract that will pay him $6.5 million each of the next two seasons.
“We gave it a run. We tried to get something done. It didn’t work out,” he said. “And now (I will) play out my contract and try to win a Super Bowl.”
Olsen’s stance hasn’t changed.
He still feels his compensation doesn’t match his production, which has included the first three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons by a tight end in NFL history.
Olsen, 32, signed a three-year, $22.5 million extension in 2015 that included a $12 million signing bonus. But he ranks seventh among tight ends in per-year average ($7.5 million) and 12th in guaranteed money ($12 million).
Olsen said he isn’t sure what he would have done if chaos had not unfolded at Bank of America Stadium last week. But ultimately Olsen decided not to dump any more grease into the dumpster fire many fans thought was raging at 800 South Mint Street.
“I didn’t think it was right to the players. I didn’t think it was right to the guys that count on me to be a leader on this team – coaches and people in this organization, from Mr. Richardson on down, who count on me to set a certain example both by my presence here but also my play,” Olsen said. “I just didn’t think my selfishness would do any good for the betterment of the team.”
Distraction has become a cliched, catch-all term in sports to describe any development that might, say, cause a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance to finish 6-10 the next season.
The Panthers had plenty of distractions to go around last year – from Josh Norman’s exit to Cam Newton’s dress-code benching in Seattle – and there will be disruptions that Hurney and Rivera will have to deal with in the weeks and months ahead.
But on the day when the Panthers could finally flip the page on a forgettable 2016, at least Olsen helped them start with a clean slate.
Olsen said of course he has to look out for his best interests, but he didn’t want to cause a “big stink” and set a bad example, especially for rookies like Christian McCaffrey and Samuel.
“And all the way down the roster, this has nothing to do with them,” Olsen said. “So why penalize them? Why set a bad first example and get our season off to a bad start?”