CHARLOTTE - Initially, tight end Greg Olsen thought his infant son might be in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery when the Panthers' mandatory veteran minicamp kicked off Tuesday.
But when a long day for the players came to a close, Olsen was able to go home rather than to the hospital to spend some time with TJ and his two other children.
"He's doing well," Olsen said. "It's one of the fastest recoveries that they've seen."
TJ returned home last Thursday, just four days after the second of three surgeries designed to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome. TJ underwent the first procedure shortly after his birth in October and will undergo the final one around the age of 3.
"He went in to get a heart catheter (on May 30), which is a preemptive thing for the surgery, and then while he was in the hospital with the way things went they decided to just go ahead and do the surgery," Olsen explained. "They ended up moving it up a week. He had it last Saturday (June 1); he came home Wednesday."
While the third and final procedure will mark a milestone, the long-term future is still uncertain because children simply didn't survive the condition three decades ago.
"The unfortunate aspect of it is that the oldest living kids that have survived these surgeries are only now getting into their 30s, so the long, long-term prognosis is a little unclear," Olsen said. "But there are a lot of kids out there now in their 20s or 30s without a transplant, so that aspect of it is positive. And long, long term, hopefully by then more stuff will be developed."
With TJ well on his way to recovery, it was a little easier for Olsen to concentrate on the task at hand, namely finishing off the offseason training program as strong as the Panthers started it.
It's all in hopes of having a strong start to the season.
"The last couple of weeks of OTAs have been really good. I know every year people are going to say that – no one ever comes out here and says that we suck – but I really do believe we've taken a lot of strides," Olsen said. "We've made some minor adjustments with Coach (Mike) Shula now being the offensive coordinator. We've transitioned to doing things his way, and guys have really responded to that.
"We've added some pieces to the puzzle that are going to help us on both sides, but no one wins championships this time of year. You've got to put in the work now, but it only really matters when you start playing. We need to find out why we've started the last couple of years poorly and correct that because the Week 12 runs aren't cutting it."
ONE FAST STARTER: One of the pieces added to the offense is wide receiver Ted Ginn, who sparkled with a sprinting catch down the sideline Tuesday.
"That's part of the reason he's here, obviously. We know that with his speed he can blow the lid off, and he's showing it," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "But it also helps on quick underneath routes because with his speed, he gets the ball, sticks his leg in the ground, makes a cut and goes vertical. A 5-yard pass can turn into a 25-yard gain before you know it."
The Panthers' other major free agent addition at wide receiver, Domenik Hixon, sat out practice Tuesday with a hamstring injury.
"He tweaked it about a week ago, so we're just being careful with it," Rivera said. "He was coming on and has done some really nice things for us. Unfortunately, he'll more than likely miss the next couple of days."
STILL SIDELINED: While Hixon was recently reduced to working on the side, that's been a familiar spot for running back Christian McCaffrey, who hasn't participated in team periods at any point during the offseason training program that concludes Thursday.
"He had both ankles done in the offseason, so he's right along the line of where he needs to be," Rivera said. "The hard part is that when you get both of them done, it's going to be awhile. But he's working, rehabbing."
As long as Stewart continues to progress, it appears that he has a good shot at participating in training camp.