Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is excited to check another stadium off his list Sunday – and check out how his surgically repaired foot holds up on the artificial surface at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After three consecutive games on the natural grass at Bank of America Stadium, Olsen will play and the Panthers will face the Falcons on the artificial turf at their new $1.5 billion home.
Olsen aggravated his foot against the Jets after coming off injured reserve in November and sat out the following week in New Orleans. Both of those games were on artificial surfaces, which Olsen says exacerbated the pain in his foot.
Nearly a month later, Olsen says his foot feels better and he’s ready to test it on the turf again.
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“I’ve felt better each week the past couple weeks. At this point in the season, chances are our playoffs are going to take us through turf,” Olsen said this week. “A bunch of indoor stadiums have made the fold here, obviously this week and New Orleans and Minnesota. It kind of is what it is at this point. We’ll just hope for the best.”
The Panthers have had other injury issues on artificial turf this year, particularly at New England’s Gillette Stadium. Backup safety Demetrious Cox blamed the soft surface in Foxborough for a sprained ankle that ultimately landed Cox on injured reserve.
But Panthers wideout Devin Funchess says he’s heard good things about the turf in Atlanta, and took a good-natured jab at Olsen for his comments about artificial surfaces.
“Those are old bones. He got old bones,” Funchess said, smiling. “Nah, sometimes it’s different. It depends on how the turf is set up. The old Atlanta stadium, it was a hard turf. So if they have a softer turf it might be better.”
Olsen expects it to be loud Sunday, as it is in any indoor stadium.
“It’ll be nice to check off another stadium,” Olsen said. “I’ve almost been to them all.”
Funchess is eager to see if the reviews of Mercedes-Benz Stadium ring true.
“They say it’s a fast turf, so I get to run extra fast on it,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”