CHARLOTTE – As much as Greg Olsen talks, he's not much of a rah-rah guy. That's part of the reason why the tight end had a captive audience in the Panthers' locker room moments after last week's embarrassing 38-point loss in San Francisco.
"He stopped Coach Rivera and was like, 'Listen, the same thing happened to us last year and then we lost seven straight. Let's see how good our locker room is. Let's see how we respond,'" defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recalled after Sunday's bounce-back win over the Titans.
"I think we made it a point this week that that didn't happen again."
That the point was acknowledged as soon as the Panthers walked off the Levi's Stadium turf was vital. Questions were coming about the last time they gave up 50-plus points and the seven-game losing streak that night in Pittsburgh spawned. Players could've bristled and blown it off as something that happened last year. But instead of running from it, Olsen's talk encouraged them to embrace an opportunity to learn from that painful past.
"I just think sometimes the truth needs to be said. Whoever it comes from, it comes from, but I've seen a lot of different things in this league," Olsen said after contributing three receptions for 40 yards against the Titans.
"I've been on the good side and bad side of it, and I think sometimes it's your obligation as an older guy to try to not let history repeat itself and try to draw on past experiences to prevent them from happening again. Not everything is just a pat on the back and, 'We'll get 'em next time.' I don't care if it's flag football with 8-year-olds or this."
So, in a way, Olsen tapped into his Little League/Pop Warner coaching side. And the big kids got the message.
"He's a hasn't-broken-the-team-down-until-this-year kind of guy. He's a grinder, does his job and sets an example to lead the team," left guard Greg Van Roten said. "So for him to be vocal, people pay attention and listen to that. It's not like falling on deaf ears. It was like, 'Pay attention.' This is a 13-year vet who's letting you know how it is."
Added cornerback Donte Jackson:
"You've gotta be able to look yourself in the (mirror) and know what we have to do after this cause last year we didn't do that. We didn't have that accountability to just start over. We can say it, but nobody really took action. I think this year it kind of hit a bit different."
It's impossible to calculate how much Olsen's speech actually affected Sunday's win. Maybe the Panthers would've still beaten Tennessee without it. But it's not impossible to imagine how uncomfortable things may have gotten if the result went the other way, sending what would've been a 4-4 team into Green Bay on a losing streak.
"We (had) to be real with ourselves and understand that last week was not good enough and just because you say you're going to move forward and it won't happen again is BS," Olsen said. "That's not the way this league works. If it happens once, if you're not careful, it'll happen again.
"I thought guys really responded well this week in practice, understood the challenge this was going to be today and understood what this game meant to get back on the right track. It was a great answer."