Inside the Panthers

Next steps in Panthers TE Greg Olsen’s potential return? They are literally steps

While the NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday, the Carolina Panthers soon could be getting a Pro Bowl tight end – their own.

Greg Olsen tested his surgically repaired foot with the team’s training staff Monday, the first step toward returning to the lineup next month.

“We didn’t do much. Just kind of went outside and moved around a little bit,” Olsen said. “I think as the rest of the week goes and the next couple of weeks we’ll just kind of progress based on how it feels and how it responds. But so far we’re feeling pretty positive about what we’ve been able to do.”

Olsen has been on injured reserve since Sept. 19 since breaking a bone in his right foot in a Week 2 victory over Buffalo. He’s eligible to begin practicing this week but said he’s planning a gradual return with an eye on the Nov. 26 game vs. the Jets, the first time he can play under IR rules.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he’s excited about the prospects of getting Olsen back in the lineup.

But first Olsen has to make sure he’s fully recovered from his Jones fracture, which involves the fifth metatarsal of the foot.

“Always the tell is go out and do what you do, and then how does he react the next morning?” Rivera said. “That’s probably the most important thing, will always be the next day.”

Other players with Jones fractures have had mixed results in their recoveries. Julian Edelman and Dez Bryant came back within the 6- to 8-week timeline, but needed additional surgeries after the season.

Rams wideout Sammy Watkins had issues related to his Jones fracture for parts of two years.

But Olsen, the only tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, expects to be back on the field this season.

“If I didn’t play this year I’d be very surprised,” he said. “But nothing’s guaranteed in this league.”

Veteran tight end Ed Dickson has played well in Olsen’s absence, highlighted by a 175-yard receiving effort in a Week 5 victory at Detroit. But Dickson also is an accomplished blocker who’s had to relinquish some of those duties as the No. 1 tight end.

“It’s kind of hard to keep him off the field with the production he’s had over the last couple years,” Dickson said. “And I’m excited about getting back to my other role.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson