CHARLOTTE – It may be hard to believe, especially for the man himself, but Greg Olsen is now the oldest player on Carolina’s roster.
“I appreciate you pointing that out,” the 34-year-old Olsen said.
But it’s not all bad.
“It’s good and bad,” Olsen said. “It means you’ve tricked them for another year to stick around. But getting old is not always ideal.
“It seems like not long ago I was one of the young guys looking at the old guys thinking, ‘I can’t believe how old they are.’ It is what it is. With that comes a lot of responsibility. With that comes a lot of people looking to you to set an example and set a standard for how things are expected around here.”
Olsen has always set a terrific example. He’s a pro’s pro, as they say.
He’s been one of the NFL’s most consistently productive tight ends since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2007.
But his past two years have been tarnished by a troublesome bone in his right foot. Last year, Olsen posted 291 yards on 27 receptions in nine games played. The year before he recorded 17 catches for 191 yards in seven games played.
We’re talking about a guy who – prior to 2017 – hadn’t missed a game since his rookie year with the Bears.
“It’s been tough. It’s been a bad two seasons. That’s the reality of it,” said Olsen, who confirmed he is fully cleared for OTAs. “I know what I can do, I just have to stay on the field. Hopefully this little bone in my foot doesn’t keep breaking.
“I feel ready to rock,” he added. “I haven’t taken as many snaps over the last two years as I had prior, so maybe that’ll give me a little more juice at this part of my career.”
Olsen’s interest in one day pursuing a career in broadcasting has been widely discussed, and we all know he has what it takes to be a terrific analyst.
With that said, what’s motivating Olsen to keep playing?
“I still enjoy it," Olsen said. "I still enjoy the offseason workouts, enjoy the weight room and conditioning and running. That still is fun to me.
"I've had some cool opportunities to consider, but when it came down to it I still feel like I have a lot to accomplish in my career. The last two years haven’t been the way I would want to close out my career. There are a lot of things I set out for 13 years ago that I haven’t been able to quite achieve yet.”
Winning a Super Bowl obviously tops that list. Coming so close in 2015 only to be turned away in Super Bowl 50 against Denver has left a sour taste that can only be sweetened by a win on that same stage.
And then there are the individual pursuits. Olsen is currently eighth all-time in receiving yards by a tight end, and he wants to climb higher.
|Tight End||All-Time Receiving Yards|
|1. Tony Gonzalez||15,127|
|2. Jason Witten||12,488|
|3. Antonio Gates||11,841|
|4. Shannon Sharpe||10,060|
|5. Ozzie Newsome||7,980|
|6. Jackie Smith||7,918|
|7. Rob Gronkowski||7,861|
|8. GREG OLSEN||7,847|
|9. Vernon Davis||7,439|
|10. Jimmy Graham||7,436|
“There are a few more guys that are within reach that I still think I can beat – names that are at the top of the pedestal as far as who has played this position over the years,” Olsen said.
In the end, Olsen – whose contract expires after the 2020 season – wants to finish strong. He’s been forced to watch a lot of games from the sideline over the past two seasons, and he doesn’t want those to be the final images of what’s been an outstanding career.
“I want to go out on my terms,” Olsen said, “and feel satisfied with my ending.”