My first experience with Greg Olsen was learning to spell his last name. A good friend has an o back there. I needed time to adjust. My second experience was watching him catch passes from the JUGS machine. The ball went high, went low, went fast, and the angle from which the football came changed. Olsen caught everything, and made it too easy to be worthwhile. It was the first time I ever felt sorry for a machine.
Olsen is 32, and if you’re a fan of the Carolina Panthers or football or just genuinely good guys, you’re pulling for him to return as soon as his health does. Olsen broke a bone Sunday in his right foot. He was running a pass pattern and it just went. Those injuries, the ones that don’t involve contact with other players, often are the worst.
When Olsen comes back, you ought to bring binoculars with you and aim them at him. He runs tight routes, catches almost everything that comes his way and he blocks. Jimmy Graham was a great tight end when he played with Drew Brees for the New Orleans Saints. But he wasn’t called upon to block. Carolina’s tight ends are. Coaches are rather insistent about it.
One afternoon when the locker room was open to the media I saw Olsen alone at his locker and asked if he had a few minutes. He said, almost apologetically, that he couldn’t talk that day, which for him is rare. I said it was no problem, and moved on.
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I don’t walk into the locker room and think players are saying, “Man, I sure hope Tom comes to my locker and talks to me.” I get that players have lives outside Bank of America Stadium.
I ran into Olsen later and he said, “Thanks for understanding.”
He didn’t need to say that. But the gesture was nice.
I wish him a full and quick recovery. The JUGS machine is getting cocky.