SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Four years into Greg Olsen’s pro career, the team that selected him in the first round of the NFL Draft traded him for a future third-round pick.
Olsen has never looked back.
Three-plus years into Kelvin Benjamin’s pro career, the team that selected him in the first round of the NFL Draft traded him for a future third-round and a seventh-round pick.
Olsen understands what being traded feels like, but he doesn’t understand why Benjamin decided to look back in a pretty inflammatory way.
“Things didn’t work out here for him. I get it,” Olsen said in response to his former teammate’s critical comments directed at Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in The Athletic. “I know what that’s like, but you’d like to see him kind of move forward to his new team and embrace him new opportunity rather than kind of go personal on it.
“I don’t know. I think it’s kind of weird. I think we all kind of felt the same way.”
Olsen said that Newton’s current receivers all feel the same way about their quarterback, and it’s decidedly different than how Benjamin feels. Carolina picked Benjamin in the 2014 draft and he posted a 1,000-yard season as a rookie, but Benjamin said it “was a bad fit from the get-go” and that he wished he had been drafted by a team featuring a different quarterback.
Now in Buffalo, which hosts the Panthers in the preseason opener Thursday night, Benjamin is preparing for his first full season with the team that traded for him midway through last season. A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman are competing for the Bills’ starting quarterback job, with 2018 first-round pick Josh Allen waiting in the wings.
In Chicago from 2007-10, Olsen’s starting quarterbacks were Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman and Brian Griese.
“Again, I’ve been shipped off from another team too, so I get it,” Olsen said. “At the same point, I always knew there was more I probably could have done at that point in my career, and I tried to make those improvements over the past eight years to do what I thought I was capable of.
“You can probably find a lot of people around the league that have opinions about me, you, Cam, the Panthers, our organization. People have opinions; that’s just the world of today. A lot of people’s opinions are formed when they don’t really want to accept things themselves.”
With Newton under center, Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
“The reality is there hasn’t been a more productive duo than the two of us at our positions. He’s a big reason for that, and I am not afraid to admit that,” Olsen said. “I’ve been fortunate to play with him. I’ve benefited from being his teammates. I’m going to try to take advantage of it as long as I can.”
Olsen described Benjamin as “a good teammate” and said that on 90-man rosters around the league “all 90 of those guys have struggles personally and football-wise.” Olsen, however, can’t fathom that any disappointments that Benjamin may be dealing with should fall at Newton’s feet.
“I can’t imagine that. He was the MVP, wasn’t he?” Olsen said. “Everybody feels how they feel; you know how I feel and how we feel about Cam. Right now, I think that’s all that matters.
“Obviously you don’t like people going after your quarterback, but I think Cam knows how the guys here feel about him, and I would imagine that’s what he holds the most credence to.”