Greg Olsen wants to make sure Cam Newton isn't forgotten

Greg Olsen and Cam Newton

CHARLOTTE – Panthers owner David Tepper didn't have the same kind of background with Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis that others in the room Thursday for their retirement ceremony did.

But Tepper recalled his first days as owner of the team, when he was learning the new personnel, and kept hearing about three of his star players who excelled on the field and in the community.

Two of them signed one-day contracts to retire with his team Thursday. The other was an unspoken presence for most of the day, but Tepper made it clear how he felt as he discussed Davis and Olsen's homecomings.

"And we'll bring the other one home eventually," Tepper said.

After the event, Olsen offered a mea culpa, saying he had an entire section of his speech written about Newton. Unfortunately, "in the midst the emotions and trying to cover a lot of bases," Olsen forgot that part.

And as he enjoyed a chance to celebrate his own career, he said he hopes Newton gets his.

"He deserves it," Olsen said. "If there's a list of people who love Cam and care for him and appreciate him, I'm at the top of it. I've said before, he's the best thing that ever happened to my career. I don't know if I have the career I had if not for the nine years I spent with him. He made me a better player. We enjoyed each other as people. We're very different people, and I think that's what made it so special and made our connection so unique.

"When Cam's day is done, I don't know when that will be, how many years from now, . . . when that day is come, if anybody has earned the right to have a day like today to recognize all he gave to this organization, putting this organization on the map nationally, it was him, it was Luke Kuechly, it's guys that transcended being good football players, they were generational football players.

"He's a guy who earned the right to get his send-off whenever that time comes. And there's a hundred other guys that played with him that feel the way I feel about him. I hope that day we can all be there and give him the send-off he deserves."

The Panthers reached out to Newton to take part in a video tribute to Olsen and Davis which opened the ceremony, but Newton was among the former teammates who chose to keep their messages to Olsen and Davis private.

Newton's a free agent, in search of a new home after a year in New England, so there's no way of knowing when the end of his already brilliant career might come.

Even when it does, reconciliation could take time, given the circumstances of Newton's departure.

He was released last spring before new head coach Matt Rhule ever had a chance to work with him after Newton struggled through two years of shoulder injuries. To make a long story short, Newton didn't feel like it was his time to go, which makes his future here a potentially awkward dance.

But Tepper has presided over healing before.

David Tepper and Steve Smith

Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.'s release came with as much emotional baggage as Newton's — if not more. But over time, the hard feelings subsided, and an opportunity for grace emerged. After years of icy silence, and a slow thaw of conversations, Smith came back in 2019 to be inducted into the team's Hall of Honor, with Tepper welcoming back a player he didn't have a relationship with before.

Time will tell if it happens for Newton.

But Olsen wanted to make sure he knew, and others knew, that it was a thing that needed to happen, so that his quarterback got to enjoy the feeling of family he felt Thursday.

View photos from Bank of America Stadium as Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen returned to sign one-day contracts and retire as Carolina Panthers.

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