Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has friends and family members who play fantasy football.
So Olsen was prepared when he ventured onto social media sites and saw posts about how his fantasy stock shot up following the season-ending knee injury to Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
“I think it’s funny. You can’t help but hear, ‘Greg Olsen needs to step up. He needs to make a lot of plays,’” Olsen said after Monday’s practice. “I just need to do what I’ve always done.”
What Olsen has done since entering the NFL in 2007 as a first-round pick of the Chicago Bears is show up every week and play, and catch a lot of passes.
Olsen set career highs last season and broke his own records for a Panthers tight end with 84 receptions for 1,008 yards. His yardage total matched Benjamin’s for the team lead.
Greg Olsen set career highs last season and broke his own records for a Panthers tight end with 84 receptions for 1,008 yards.
With Benjamin out with a torn ACL and the Panthers lacking a true No. 1 wideout to replace him, the popular thinking is quarterback Cam Newton will look to Olsen more often.
Olsen, a team captain who went to his first Pro Bowl last season, says he’s ready.
“I think I can be better. I think I left some plays out there last year. I can think of a handful off the top of my head that I remember,” Olsen said. “I think I can still get better all-around. I think I can catch more balls, run better routes.”
Olsen’s receptions total has improved every season since he came to Carolina via trade before the 2011 season. He shared the field with former tight end Jeremy Shockey in 2011, but since then he has become one of the league’s most dependable receiving tight ends.
“I think Cam’s security blankets were Kelvin and Greg. If Kelvin’s not open, go to Greg and then check it down,” said fullback Mike Tolbert, who was glad to see Olsen get recognized by his peers last season.
“It took a while, but Greg came to the point where he’s a dynamic tight end. Last year was his eighth year in the league, first Pro Bowl, which he should have had two or three by then.”
I think I can be better. I think I left some plays out there last year.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen
Olsen, 30, ranks in the top five among tight ends since the start of the 2007 season with 465 catches for 5,188 yards. But until recently, Olsen wasn’t considered the top tight end in the NFC South.
But with Tony Gonzalez retiring and Jimmy Graham being traded from New Orleans to Seattle during the offseason, Olsen is finally getting his due from media members and fantasy owners.
“I never thought I would be the old guy in the position. It just feels like I came in the league and guys like Gonzalez and (the Cowboys’ Jason) Witten and them were rewriting the record books for tight ends,” Olsen said. “It’s been a fun era for tight ends. I’m glad to be a part of it. … I have a lot of football left ahead of me. I feel good.”
The Panthers rewarded Olsen with a three-year, $22.5 million contract extension during the offseason. He’s under contract through the 2018 season, when he’ll be 33.
Greg Olsen is scheduled to play in his 127th consecutive game Sunday at Jacksonville, the second-longest streak among active tight ends.
Olsen is scheduled to play in his 127th consecutive game Sunday at Jacksonville, the second-longest streak among active tight ends (Witten has played in 187 consecutive games).
Olsen sprained his knee in the Bears’ final exhibition in 2007 and sat out the first two games of his rookie year. He hasn’t missed a game since.
Olsen sticks to a strict offseason training regimen and does the same pre-practice routine every day to try to avoid preventable injuries. And while Olsen says he’s been lucky he hasn’t had a major injury, he’s also played through plenty of minor ones, including a sprained ankle that limited him in a couple of games last October.
“It’s not so much trying to be a hero. I have a lot of guys here that are counting on me to play,” Olsen said. “And barring something significant, I’m going to do everything I can to do what I have to do to play.
“I take a lot of pride in playing every week, practicing every day because I believe that’s the only way you can continue to get better. I feel like if you start taking a lot of days off, you start taking breaks from training, you start taking breaks because you use the ‘I’m getting old’ excuse, that’s the fastest way to a decline.”
Olsen says he’s not approaching this season different from any other, regardless of the makeup of the receiving corps without Benjamin.
“I feel like I’ve been able to do a pretty consistent job for eight years, doing my job, doing my role,” Olsen said. “When they need someone to catch the ball, (I) go out there, get open and catch it. It’s not that much more complicated than that.”
That has worked pretty well to this point.
Weekend with the 88s
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. are teaming up for their second annual Weekend with the 88s, a raffle benefiting the Levine Children’s Hospital. The winner will fly to the Nov. 1 race in Martinsville via helicopter before returning to Charlotte for the Panthers’ Monday night game against Indianapolis the following day. Visit weekendwiththe88s.com for more info.