CHARLOTTE – Greg Olsen sat out the entire week of practice leading up to the Saints game but was back without limitations Wednesday, a sure sign that the Pro Bowl tight end and his surgically repaired foot should be ready to return to game action Sunday when the Vikings visit.
"It's very important mostly because it kind of lets everybody know what's happening as far as what we can do with Greg, what Greg is capable of," head coach Ron Rivera said, adding that Olsen wouldn't be on any sort of "pitch count" in terms of snaps.
"I think it also helps (offensive coordinator) Mike (Shula) in terms of game planning and the plays that he can start prepping and getting ready to call."
Olsen, a key component to Carolina's offensive efficiency, suffered a broken foot in Week 2 and was placed on injured reserve. He returned as quickly as is allowed by IR rules - starting in Week 12 against the Jets - but he played just one snap in the second half because of soreness in the foot.
Olsen then sat out practice last week and didn't play in Sunday's showdown at the Saints, Rivera saying the team didn't want to push it on the Superdome's artificial turf. Now the Panthers – and Olsen - are set to open a three-game homestand on Bank of America Stadium's natural grass surface.
Center Ryan Kalil was limited in practice Wednesday, just like he was throughout Jets week before ultimately being inactive. Tyler Larsen (foot) missed practice, just as he did last Wednesday when he started against the Jets. Running back Christian McCaffrey (foot) and wide receiver Kaelin Clay (shoulder) also sat out practice.
On defense, Rivera said he was "a bit concerned" about linebacker Shaq Thompson, who came out before ultimately returning against the Saints with a foot injury initially suffered against the Jets. Rivera said he believes Thompson has plantar fasciitis and indicated that nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn will continue to get more reps in practice and "will probably play a little bit more Sunday because of Shaq's situation."
Linebacker Thomas Davis (hamstring) was limited in practice, but a pair of offensive weapons saddled with shoulder injuries – running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Devin Funchess – fully participated.