CHARLOTTE – The saying goes, "Err on the side of caution."
Greg Olsen says otherwise.
"I'm always going to err on the side of playing," Olsen said. "But I want to play and help the team. I don't want to just fill out a jersey."
Olsen won't be back in uniform when the Panthers host the Giants on Sunday, but the tight end said it's not "out of the question" that he could suit up the next week when the Panthers travel to Washington.
Olsen was a limited participant in practice Thursday, his first official practice time since re-fracturing the right foot that cost him nine games in 2017. If he does manage to play next week, he would have missed just three games.
"Obviously it was a big step today going out there and actually doing a little bit of practice," Olsen said. "Sitting in that training room after the Cowboys game and thinking I'm going to have to do what I did last year versus where we are now three weeks and a couple of days later, at the time this didn't seem possible. But here we are, and I'll take that as a win."
Strangely, Olsen has last year's injury to thank for his ability to return much quicker this year. The Week 2 injury, which ended a streak of 160 consecutive games played, required surgery and landed Olsen on injured reserve. The insertion of a screw in the broken bone obviously helped last season and did the same thing again when he broke the same bone in this year's opener and didn't require surgery.
"The bone doesn't break all the way through because there's a screw in there already. We kind of started ahead of the curve," Olsen said. "We thought with some time it would respond pretty well, and it has. We've done every possible thing you could imagine to try to expedite that as best we could."
When Olsen does return, he intends to hit the ground running. He thought he was ready for action when first eligible in Week 12 last season, but he only made it through the first half and then sat out the next week as well before returning for good in Week 14 and getting stronger from there.
This time, when the time comes, Olsen is more hopeful that he'll be able to avoid such a setback.
"I'm confident that when I first come back and play in a game, this time I'll be better than I was the first couple of games when I came back last year," Olsen said. "Towards the end of the regular season and the playoffs, I thought I was pretty good, but those first couple of games I didn't have my typical ability to move and create separation. I feel like I'll be better than that this time, but you don't know until you play.
"I'm really at the point where it's like, 'What else is going to happen to it?' Obviously I don't want to go out and be reckless, but it is kind of what it is. If it doesn't hurt and I can move and provide something to the offense, I feel like it's my job to be out there and play. And once I'm out there playing, you've just got to let it go."