Olsen grins and bears it

CHARLOTTE - When tight end Greg Olsen first saw this year's NFL schedule, he could see that he'd take part in a matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears in Week 4.

Olsen never would have guessed that he'd be playing for the Panthers rather than the Bears.

Traded by the Bears to the Panthers for a 2012 draft pick on the eve of training camp, Olsen will return to Soldier Field on Sunday, the place he called home for his first four NFL seasons.

"I got drafted there and enjoyed my four years playing there, but I didn't grow up there as a diehard Chicago guy," Olsen said. "We played well and we won a lot of games, but now I'm a Panther and I'm excited to be here."

A first-round draft choice in 2007 out of the University of Miami, Olsen had a solid rookie season before averaging 57 catches for 593 yards and totaling 13 touchdowns over the 2008 and '09 seasons. Last season, however, he caught just 41 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns.

So far this season with the Panthers, even while sharing the position with another accomplished University of Miami tight end in Jeremy Shockey, Olsen is on an early pace to eclipse his career bests of 60 catches and 612 yards in 2009.

"It's been great. It's nice running around and catching the ball," said Olsen, who caught the game-winning touchdown last Sunday against Jacksonville. "Both me and Shock have been able to make some plays this year and get this thing going on offense.

"I'm excited to be here and I think this is an exciting team with a lot of energy around it. I think we're on the rise."

Olsen's numbers were on the decline in Chicago because of a change in offensive philosophy. Mike Martz, who made his mark coaching prolific offenses in St. Louis that virtually ignored the tight end position, took over as the Bears' offensive coordinator in 2010.

After trading Olsen, Chicago released long-time tight end Desmond Clark in the final roster cutdown. The Bears' starter is now Kellen Davis, a 2008 draft pick who has caught three passes through three games.

"They wanted to go in a different direction and they made that decision," Olsen said. "It's the NFL. That's the way it goes. Sometimes situations are out of your hands, and that was one that was out of my control.

"It worked out well that I landed here with a team that wanted me and wanted to use me."

Olsen still maintains relationships with several Bears, among them quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte and linebacker Brian Urlacher.

If there are any hard feelings, he isn't sharing them.

"You don't want to try to do too much and make it more than it is. It's not the Super Bowl," Olsen said. "Of course, I want to go up there and play well - I would be lying if I said I didn't. We still have our egos."

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