Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen Returns To Practice

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen returned to the practice field Tuesday after missing a week due to a sore calf muscle, according to the Associated Press' Steve Reed. Olsen did not play in the Panthers' second preseason game last weekend. Olsen is one of the only veteran receiving options on the Panthers' roster going into 2014, as Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell both left the team in the offseason.

Fantasy Analysis:
Olsen is an intriguing value prospect since he is being taken on average as the eighth TE in fantasy drafts. So it's good news that the calf issue turned out to be minor. Dealing with a squad of unproven, young receivers, expect QB Cam Newton to look Olsen's way early and often this season, particularly in the red zone. Olsen can be taken in most drafts with a ninth-round pick, and he stands as one most promising "sleeper" TEs with that kind of ADP.

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Greg Olsen Gives The Carolina Panthers A Proven Receiving Threat

Name: Greg Olsen – TE – #88
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 253
Age: 29
Hometown: Wayne, NJ
College: Miami (Florida)
Experience: 8th Season

The Carolina Panthers released Steve Smith and let Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon leave via free agency. That leaves Greg Olsen and Richie Brockel as the only returning receivers – both tight ends – from last season’s team to record a catch. Brockel only had one catch, so Olsen is the only proven elite receiver on the roster.

Olsen is a proven reliable receiver with 381 receptions, 4,180 receiving yards and 36 receiving touchdowns in seven seasons while playing for the Chicago Bears and Panthers. He finished last season as the Panthers leading receiver with 73 catches, which also set a career-high in a season for him. He also posted the second most receiving yards (816) and touchdowns (six).

The Panthers acquired the 2007 first round draft pick from the Bears for a third round draft pick in the 2012 draft. Olsen and the Panthers agreed to a five-year contract extension, which is scheduled to end following the 2015 season.

Quarterback Cam Newton has yet to establish himself as a top tier passer in the NFL and not having Smith will force him to lean on Olsen more this season. Newton has thrown for 11,299 yards – decreasing steadily each year since his rookie season in 2011 – while completing 59.7 percent of his passes.

However, last season, he set a career-high for completion percentage (61.7) and touchdown passes (24). But, without Smith, Newton loses 216 of his 882 career completions (just under 24.5 percent).

“It’s kind of been the storyline of the offseason,” Olsen said in a phone interview on July 23 in the Charlotte Observer. “Any time the Panthers have come up that’s kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it. I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get (to training camp), get to work and put together what works for us as an offense.”

The Panthers signed wide receivers: former Philadelphia Eagle Jason Avant, former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerricho Cotchery, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tiquan Underwood as well as former Baltimore Raven tight end Ed Dickson to reload the receiver group. They also drafted former Florida State Seminole Kelvin Benjamin of the 2014 NFL draft. Only Benjamin has the upside to be a featured receiver, but it will not be quick.

The Panthers offense does not want to rely on the pass, but needs to at some point to loosen the defense. The entire offense – even their quarterback – are run-first players, but being able to throw is a must in today’s NFL. 

“It’s not a mystery. When we’re at our best, we’re a balanced offense,” Olsen also said in the July 23 phone interview. “We’re not going to throw the ball 60 times a game. We might not throw 50 touchdowns. But we’re going to win games, we’re going to control the game.

“The sum of our parts is going to be very productive.”

Olsen will be an integral part of the Panthers passing offense early in the season as Newton builds chemistry with his new wide receiver weapons.

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Greg Olsen misses practice

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen missed practice on Thursday with a leg injury.

Coach Ron Rivera said a player stepped on Olsen’s calf on the last day of training camp in Spartanburg. Olsen expects to play in Sunday’s home exhibition game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Greg Olsen limps away from final camp practice

SPARTANBURG The Carolina Panthers had a scare Tuesday when starting tight end Greg Olsen limped off the practice field and was carted to the locker room during the final practice of training camp.

It turned out to be a cramp – a byproduct of the hot and humid temperatures that were nonexistent for the majority of the 14 practices at Wofford.

Olsen and right tackle Nate Chandler were treated for cramps Tuesday during the nearly two-hour session under sunny skies. Olsen said his left calf “locked up” toward the end of practice, but he said he would be fine after the Panthers’ scheduled off-day Wednesday.

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Fantasy Football TE draft tiers: It’s Jimmy Graham and everyone else

As a tool for fantasy drafts, players can be grouped together in tiers of similar projected fantasy production.  Tiers can help a drafter decide how to choose between players at different positions; if a given player is the last one left in a higher tier, an owner may choose to select him over another player at a position with several players of comparable value left on the board.

To create our tiers, we are using Gene Wang’s top 30 TEs. Scoring figures are for standard settings and are courtesy of Fantasy Pros.

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

The only tight end who is a legitimate option in the first round of almost all fantasy drafts, Graham towered above all others at his position last season, and he is a very good bet to do the same this year.

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Thomas went undrafted in most leagues last year, then slapped up a 12-touchdown season, then saw big-bodied Eric Decker depart in free agency. Davis snared 13 TDs, although he appears to have gained some competition for targets. All eyes will be on Gronkowski’s return from a torn ACL and MCL; if he looks like the dominating Gronk of old, he’ll shoot up draft boards.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

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Greg Olsen 'getting tired' of hearing criticism of receivers

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen tweeted Tuesday that he's "getting tired" of hearing criticism of the Panthers' receiving corps.

Olsen tweeted the comment in response to discussion he heard on ESPN Radio.

The Panthers overhauled their wide receiver corps after last season, releasing veteran Steve Smith and allowing Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon to leave via free agency. The quartet combined for 156 receptions and 1,983 receiving yards last season.

To replace them, Carolina signed veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and drafted Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin in the first round.

Olsen expanded on his tweet to the Charlotte Observer:

"Any time the Panthers have come up that’s kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it,” Olsen said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get there, get to work and put together what works for us as an offense.”

Olsen had 73 receptions for 816 yards and six touchdowns last season.

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Greg Olsen ready to silence doubters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was zipping through channels on his way to Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday when he came upon a conversation about the NFC South on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show.

Discussing the Panthers, hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic wondered aloud who quarterback Cam Newton would throw to after the mass exodus at wide receiver during the offseason.

It was hardly new ground Greenberg and Golic were covering, but it moved Olsen to tweet that he was "getting tired of hearing 'Panthers have nobody for (Newton) to throw to.'"

When Olsen reports to the stadium Thursday morning for the official start of the Panthers' preseason activities, he'll find plenty of others in the locker room who are likewise sick of the cracks about the re-made receiving corps.

"It's kind of been the storyline of the offseason. Any time the Panthers have come up that's kind of been the first comment made by everybody. I think guys are just kind of tired of it," Olsen said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I think we feel confident about our group. I think people are eager to get there, get to work and put together what works for us as an offense."

The Panthers' turnover at wide receiver has been dissected, discussed and debated at length since March when all-time receiving leader Steve Smith was released and three other wideouts left via free agency.

During his first comments after the departures, Panthers coach Ron Rivera focused on replacing the 10 combined catches per game the Panthers lost, rather than trying to find a No. 1 receiver.

The three receivers charged with filling the void are veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and rookie Kelvin Benjamin, the first-round pick from Florida State.

Cotchery and Avant have played a combined 18 seasons, with 126 career starts. And though they have only one 1,000-yard receiving season between them � Cotchery amassed 1,130 receiving yards in 2007 with the Jets � Olsen said the two bring a level of professionalism and experience that will be good for the young receivers.

"Those guys are productive, successful veterans in the NFL, and those guys don't just grow on trees," Olsen said. "I think people are going to be very happy with what they see out of those guys. I know the team is. ...

"Then you add a young guy like Kelvin to the mix, a little younger, bigger-body guy � I think it's going to be a mix of playing to everybody's strength."

Olsen expects the Panthers to be strong in the same areas that propelled them to a 12-win season last year, namely an efficient, balanced offense led by Newton and a dominant defense spearheaded by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Even when they had Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn at receiver, the Panthers were not a quick-strike offense in 2013. Instead, they kept drives alive with a lot of third- and fourth-down conversions, controlled the clock (the Panthers were fifth in the league in time of possession) and kept the defense well-rested.
Olsen doesn't expect that to change.

"It's not a mystery. When we're at our best, we're a balanced offense," Olsen said. "We're not going to throw the ball 60 times a game. We might not throw 50 touchdowns. But we're going to win games, we're going to control the game.

"The sum of our parts is going to be very productive."

Olsen and NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced a joint fundraising effort Wednesday to benefit the Levine Children's Hospital, where Olsen's son, T.J., was born with a congenital heart defect in 2012.

Earnhardt and Olsen are offering fans a chance to win what they're calling a "Weekend with the 88s," a play on Earnhardt's No. 88 car and Olsen's jersey number.

The raffle winner will meet both athletes and receive tours of Bank of America Stadium and JR Motorsports, as well as a round-trip helicopter ride from Charlotte to the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the Truck Series race (including garage passes and grandstand tickets) on Oct. 25.

The next day the winner will return to Charlotte for the Panthers' game against the Seattle Seahawks, and will receive sideline passes, parking passes and premium seats.

Raffle tickets cost $18.88 and are available at through Sept. 30. A maximum of 8,888 tickets will be sold.

Olsen said he met Earnhardt several months ago, and was his guest at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. He said Earnhardt was receptive to the 88s fundraising theme immediately.

"It's been awesome," Olsen said.

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Football IQ gives Greg Olsen edge

CHARLOTTE – I had a good idea what his answer would be, but I had to ask.

So not long ago, I stopped head coach Ron Rivera in the hallway at Bank of America Stadium.

"Which player on the team is best suited to devise a game plan and coach a game?"

Rivera thought for a couple seconds.

"Greg Olsen," he answered.

Just as I suspected.

Rivera smirked before adding one more thing.

"He's a coach's kid."

I'm well aware.

Chris Olsen is Greg's father and was his football coach at Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey.

Chris Olsen was also my gym and driver's education teacher (I graduated from Wayne Hills in 2007; Greg graduated in 2003.)

In his time as head coach from 1987-2012, Olsen's father transformed Wayne Hills football. The program went from mediocre to unbeatable. From 2002-11, Wayne Hills won eight state football championships. At one point, the team won 55 consecutive games.

This wildly successful program produced an astounding number of victories but few major college prospects. The brightest stars were the three Olsen boys – the eldest, Chris, Jr., who played quarterback at Virginia, the middle child Greg and the youngest Kevin, who is a redshirt freshman quarterback at Miami.

Greg, a nominee for Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior, was a supremely talented high school player. But his father's teams did not overwhelm the opposition with sheer talent. They won with a commitment to preparation and consistent execution.

That was the program's edge.

Greg didn't need that edge to succeed in high school. But that's where he first discovered it.

Having a football coach for a father meant Greg constantly absorbed the game from the time he was a water boy.

"He was always there," Chris said.

On Monday nights in junior high, Greg watched film with his father's coaching staff. After his high school games, Greg would spend Saturday morning critiquing the film with his father.

"Being young and learning the intricacies of what's expected – and that there's a lot that goes into it – I think that laid the foundation that allowed me to be coached by anyone and absorb any type of system," Greg said.

And it laid the foundation for a successful football career.

"It's like if your father was the president of a bank and you grow up to be a successful banker," Chris explained. "You're exposed to it at an early age, and it certainly gave him a leg up. And being a smart person on top of it doesn't hurt.

"Some people just don't get it. Greg always got it."

When he arrived at talent-rich Miami, Greg's football acumen played an instrumental role in his rise up the tight end depth chart.

"I noticed pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be able to just get by on being one of the best athletes. I wasn't one of the best athletes at my own position, let alone the entire team," he explained. "I knew I couldn't just show up and be better than a lot of guys. I had to try to find that edge, and for me, a lot of times that edge was cerebral. I always tried to know what to do, and that carries you a long way."


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Position U: Tight ends: The U

1. Miami (84 points): While it has been relatively quiet since its positional heyday early in the 2000s, Miami still easily tops this list. With seven tight ends drafted, including first-round picks Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen, the Hurricanes far surpassed the next closest programs at the position. They don’t get extra points for this, but they also produced arguably the top tight end in the NFL today in 2010 third-round pick Jimmy Graham, who's now starring for the New Orleans Saints.

Award winners: Kellen Winslow, Mackey (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Kellen Winslow (2003).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Shockey (2000, 2001), Kellen Winslow (2002, 2003), Greg Olsen (2006).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jeremy Shockey (2002), Kellen Winslow (2004), Greg Olsen (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Everett (Round 3, 2005), Jimmy Graham (Round 3, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dedrick Epps (Round 7, 2010), Richard Gordon (Round 6, 2011).

See the rest of ESPN’s rankings here

ESPN failed to remember proCane TE Bubba Franks.

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Greg Olsen may expand leadership role

At this early juncture in the offseason, two names stand out above the rest: center Ryan Kalil and tight end Greg Olsen.

Kalil is entering his eighth NFL season, all with the Panthers, behind only Davis and running back DeAngelo Williams in terms of current continuous service. He had always chosen to stay a step behind Gross when it came to taking on a leadership role but began stepping up last season, when he was a team captain for the first time (incidentally, Newton and Kuechly also were first-time captains in 2013). When the Panthers returned to Bank of America Stadium for the offseason workout program in April, three players addressed the media: Newton, Kuechly and Kalil.

Olsen is also entering his eighth NFL season, his fourth with the Panthers. Olsen, selected by the media as recipient of the 2013 Tom Berry Good Guy Award, has always been willing to impart his vast knowledge to the media and has done so more and more in the locker room as his tenure has increased. Like Kalil, Olsen is a student of the game, and it obviously doesn't hurt his credibility that he led the team in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns last season.

On defense, it's going to be interesting to track who assumes a leadership role in the revamped secondary. Charles Godfrey was asserting himself before a season-ending injury early last season, and now the Panthers have added 20 seasons of NFL experience between safeties Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud and cornerback Antoine Cason.

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Greg Olsen: Underrated

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen, TE
Olsen already led the Panthers in receiving last season with 73 receptions for 816 yards, and his role should expand now that the team’s top four wide receivers left the team. Olsen is already used primarily as a receiver and spends most of his time lined up wide. It allows some leeway to overlook the fact he’s a below average blocker.

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Watch the 2014 NFL draft with Greg Olsen & Clinton Portis

Join the Players Draft Party on the ACC Digital Network from 8 p.m. Thursday til the end of the first round for live-streaming commentary on the 2014 NFL draft. Panthers TE Greg Olsen joins Clinton Portis, Renaldo Wynn and host Jeff Fischel.

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Pressure is on Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen last season became the first Panthers tight end to lead the team in receiving since 1997 – and that was before the team held a fire sale at the wide receiver position.

Coming off the two most prolific receiving seasons by a Panthers tight end, Olsen has as much to gain as anyone following general manager Dave Gettleman’s tear-down and rebuild of the wide receiver corps.

And while Olsen said last week he’s always thrived when given more opportunities to catch the ball, he’s not ready to sound the alarm the way many Panthers fans – and at least one of his teammates – have.

“I know everyone at one point was kind of panicking. Would it have been nice to have those (receivers) back? Of course,” Olsen said at a screening of the movie “Draft Day.”

“But I think we’ve signed a lot of guys that can fill a lot of those roles,” Olsen added. “We’re putting it together. It’s hard to judge a team in March. When the season gets closer, that will be a better example of what our team is.”

Running back DeAngelo Williams said he was “still in shock” after the series of events that saw the Panthers release franchise receiving leader Steve Smith and lose wideouts Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon via free agency during a three-day stretch in March.

“I joked with people that my fantasy value went up after we got rid of our four receivers, but it’s the truth,” Williams said last week during an appearance on the NFL Network’s “NFL AM” show. “I went from probably being drafted in the fifth and sixth round to being in the first round – me and Jonathan (Stewart) alike because we have no receivers.”

The Panthers have begun to replenish the wideout position, but the tight ends and running backs figure to be featured prominently in 2014 – as they were in Mike Shula’s first season as offensive coordinator.

Shula is said to want to use more “12” personnel this year – one back, two tight ends and two receivers.

Fourth-year quarterback Cam Newton seems most comfortable running two-tight end sets. During his rookie season, when he passed for 4,051 yards to break Peyton Manning’s rookie record (since broken by Andrew Luck), Newton had the luxury of throwing to two pass-catching tight ends in Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.

The past two seasons Olsen hasn’t had a wing man.

But the Panthers added a potential No. 2 tight end last week when they signed Ed Dickson, who caught 54 passes three seasons ago in Baltimore. They previously re-signed fullback/tight end Richie Brockel and acquired blocking tight end Mike McNeill.

And then there’s the tight end/basketball forward/bodybuilder whom Newton calls ‘Swole Bones’ – Brandon Williams, the former Oregon tight end and small-college basketball player who remains something of a project.

But all that tight end inventory and well-paid running back depth won’t matter much if the Panthers don’t have wideouts consistently catching passes and stretching the field vertically – as Williams noted on his NFL Network appearance.

Williams’ concern isn’t necessarily the quality of the new receivers, but the fact they won’t get any work with Newton until training camp, when Newton is scheduled to return from ankle surgery.

“I just don’t want to see eight, nine guys in the box week in and week out because we’re working on our timing,” he said.

Olsen said it was tough to watch Smith go – as both a teammate and friend (the two remain neighbors). But he’s eager to see what Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood bring to the offense as well as the locker room.

Williams, the franchise’s all-time rushing leader, was asked whether the receiver shakeup puts more pressure on him.

“No, it puts more pressure on the front office because you make these moves and getting rid of our four receivers and then you have to bring in guys,” Williams told NFL Network. “Not saying that they’re no-name guys, but our guys made their name all on themselves.”

But Olsen said Gettleman made a name for himself last year by taking other teams’ castoffs and turning them into starters and contributors on a 12-win, playoff team.

“There is a plan. We have to trust in that,” Olsen said. “Mr. Gettleman’s done an awesome job since he’s gotten here in a short time putting pieces in place to fill holes. And doing so with guys other people maybe overlooked. Last year a lot of the guys that came in were in that type of situation and were huge parts of our team.”

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Greg Olsen continues work on 'The Heartest Yard'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen is clearly a hands-on dad.

At the NBC Charlotte studios to appear on Charlotte Today, his whole family joined him. For much of our interview he juggled holding two of his three kids at a time. Wife Kara stood with him, holding their daughter Talbot, while Greg’s mom looked-on, clearly proud.

As an outside observer, it's hard to decide what seems tougher: what the Panthers tight end manages on the field, or the wrangling he and wife Kara do off the field.

“This seems like a handful,” NBC Charlotte commented.

“Oh, it is,” Greg responded, “But it’s fun. We wouldn't trade it for anything. We've had some rough moments over the last couple of years, but the good has definitely outweighed the difficult.”

The Olsen’s oldest, Tate, is 2-and-a-half. Twins Talbot and T.J. turned 1 in October.

Dad says TJ is doing remarkably well, but it’s clear the parents are still holding their breath. Their youngest son has already undergone two surgeries and needs a third because of the heart defect he was born with.

“We're very fortunate; he's had a couple ups and downs. We have about a year until his next scheduled surgery, so we're just really trying to enjoy the family and just get there,” Greg added.

Enjoying this family is easy.

“Hey Tate when we go and throw pennies in the wishing well, what do we wish for?” Greg asks his son. 

The 2-and-a-half-year old tells his dad, “TJ's heart.”

“And has it worked so far?”


The couple is so grateful for TJ’s health that they are working to help other families. They created The Heartest Yard, a non-profit that provides in-home care and other services for babies with congenital heart defects

The Queen City has rallied around the cause and their family.

“Everyone in Charlotte-- the support we’ve gotten from the fans and the local community has been topnotch,” Kara says.

It's been a trying year, but also a fun one topped by a winning Panthers season that saw Greg growing a grizzly playoffs beard. One wife Kara didn’t entirely love.

“I was not a fan, but you gotta take one for the team,” she says.

Greg adds, “She’s a really great team player after all these years. She gets the greater good.”

It's clearly all about teamwork for the Olsens, on, but especially off, the field. And there is really one main focus.

“That’s all that matters at the end of the day is trying to keep them happy and healthy, keep things relatively normal,” Kara says, smiling.

There are several upcoming events for The Heartest Yard – including a chance to meet Greg in person.

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Greg Olsen Completes His Best Season in the NFL

If Greg Olsen did not play in the same division as Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, he would receive more attention. He should anyway. Olsen delivered a career-best and team-best 73 catches for 816 yards and six touchdowns.

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Video: Panthers TE Greg Olsen looks back, forward

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Toughest Carolina Panther? 15-month-old T.J. Olsen

CHARLOTTE – There is no disputing whom the tough guy is in Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen's household.

That title belongs to his 15-month-old son, T.J., the heart-and-soul motivation fueling his father's career-best, 73-reception season for a team-high 816 yards and six touchdowns.

Olsen's youngest son's heart has an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta. T.J. has undergone two open-heart surgeries to repair a rare condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. His father says he draws inspiration from his son, driving Greg Olsen as he has now played in 110 consecutive games, the second-longest streak among active NFL tight ends.

"Without a doubt T.J.'s toughest in our family,'' Olsen told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. "T.J. got off to a tough start, had his struggles. Then, since his second operation in June, he's really flourished.''

On Sunday, the Panthers meet the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC divisional-round showdown. T.J. enjoys the games, Olsen said, even if he is not yet old enough to comprehend what his dad will be doing in his first playoff game since a 21-14, 2010 NFC Championship game loss to the Green Bay Packers as a member of the Chicago Bears.

But it won't be long. "My older son Tate is 2 ½ and he's all about it,'' Olsen said.

"T.J. actually has been able to come to a few games this year. And he just loves the atmosphere. I don't think he quite processes it yet. But he will one day.''

It was hard for Olsen and wife, Kara, to process the news that their newborn wouldn't be able to go home with twin sister, Talbot, following their birth in October 2012.

T.J.'s initials stand for Trent Jerry, his middle name in honor of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who flew the Olsens on his private jet to Boston to consult with experts following his diagnosis. Richardson underwent 2009 heart transplant surgery at the same hospital that treated Olsen's son and where Denver Broncos coach John Fox went this past season.

"We gave T.J. the middle name 'Jerry' because of the way Mr. Richardson helped us when he had no obligation,'' Olsen said. "My wife's grandmother who passed was named Jerry, too.

"We just felt too many stars align not to.''

Richardson waited those tense hours with the Olsens at The Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte during T.J.'s surgery performed by Dr. Benjamin Peeler, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery.

"Jerry was there the whole time in the waiting room when I came to see Greg and Kara after T.J.'s surgery,'' Peeler told USA TODAY Sports.

"T.J. is doing very well. All the home nursing care for T.J. was really critical his first six months.''

Until recent developments, a mortality rate of 10-15%' existed for children with this condition between their first and second surgeries.

Olsen felt compelled by his platform as a player to approach Peeler about establishing "The HEARTest Yard Fund'' to support other families who have dealt with similar heart conditions.

"Greg and Kara and family have already raised a half a million dollars in pledges for their program,'' Peeler said. "Greg is a pretty amazing dude. He has got a ton of energy and a live brain. It not only has a lot to do with his level of play. He's extremely passionate about his program.''

Linebacker Luke Kuechly was stunned to learn what Olsen kept inside.

"When Greg was going through everything with his little one, he was here every day and you didn't even know,'' Kuechly said. "He's had a great year. He and Kara are great people.''

Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman says Olsen's presence is critical to Carolina's chances Sunday, especially with receiver Steve Smith questionable with a sprained knee.

Olsen arrived in a July, 2011 trade.

"Greg played well with Chicago,'' the Fox analyst said. "But he's really found a home in Carolina.''

T.J. faces another surgery, hopefully the last one, at age 3.

"We've heard from a lot of families,'' Olsen said. "One family received the diagnosis and were contemplating not going through with having the baby. Then, they saw a story about us and realized they weren't the only ones. They ended up having the baby. He's in that three-stage surgery process -- doing well.

"That's the reason we shared our story, to show, 'This is an issue. But there are resources. You're not going through it alone.'''

Olsen looked away before adding, "Because sometimes that's how it feels.''

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Some proCanes Advance in the NFL Playoffs, While Others Are Sent Home Packing

With the first round of the NFL playoffs complete, some proCanes were sent home packing while others continue their quest for a Super Bowl ring.

With the New Orleans Saints defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, Jimmy Graham and Jon Vilma (IR) advance to the next round of the playoffs to take on the proCane-less Seattle Seahawks. Go Saints! The Eagles lost because they didn’t have any proCanes. Happy

Two proCanes were sent home with the Kansas City Chiefs losing a thriller to the Indianapolis Colts. DL Allen Bailey and TE Richard Gordon were sent home while Reggie Wayne (IR) will continue to help his team from sidelines in their next game versus the New England Patriots who have proCane DL Vince Wilfork who is also on IR.

The San Francisco 49ers behind the solid running of proCane RB Frank Gore ended up defeating the Green Bay Packers who lost proCane DB Sam Shields in the first quarter of their defeat. The 49ers will face the Carolina Panthers who have proCane TE Greg Olsen on the field and QB Coach Ken Dorsey on the sidelines. The Packers also have scouts Glenn Cook and Alonzo Highsmith on their staff as well as Winston Moss.

The Chargers who don’t have a proCane and defeated the proCane-less Bengals (boooooring), will face the Denver Broncos with their solid proCane offensive lineman Orlando Franklin.

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Greg Olsen gives up his razor for good of the team

CHARLOTTE –– The playoffs haven’t begun for the Carolina Panthers, though the season has already taken a toll on tight end Greg Olsen.

Not the weekly pounding of a 16-game schedule — he is as healthy as any player can be at this point. Olsen also has playoff experience. He played in two playoff games for the Chicago Bears in 2010, so the extended season isn’t a shock to him.

But there has still been a change in lifestyle that has the seven-year NFL veteran wondering what each day will bring. His routine has been disrupted for weeks — and that is a suffocating feeling for a professional athlete, whether the change is big or small.

In Olsen’s case, it is because he hasn’t shaved in nearly three months.

“Beard living is not easy,” Olsen said late last week. “It’s unchartered waters for me.”

He leaned on a chair in front of his locker at Bank of America Stadium. His head was bowed as if weighed down by a long, sandy-brown anchor he tethered himself to weeks ago.

The beard has been his constant companion since a 22-6 loss to Arizona on Oct. 6, a defeat that dropped Carolina to 1-3. The Panthers rebounded to beat Minnesota the following week. And whether true or not, Olsen felt that season-changing victory could be directly linked to his sprouting facial hair. Not wanting to tempt his –– or, more importantly, the team’s –– fate, he decided the beard would remain so long as the Panthers were engulfed in good vibes.

A 12-4 regular season and a division title have Olsen scared to even look at a razor these days. It is quite a change for a traditionally clean-shaven guy. And it is a different adjustment than what the team as a whole recently endured.

Having secured a first-round bye, the Panthers had to allow the first round to play out before learning next Sunday’s opponent. That means no in-depth scouting reports or long film sessions focusing on a specific team.

Instead, the days since last week’s NFC South-clinching win at Atlanta have been devoted to internal issues. The Panthers have tried to fine-tune all phases of their game while rehashing things that were lost in translation since training camp. Carolina will return to its regular routine next week.

The way of the beard
Olsen, meanwhile, will continue to travel down a foreign highway. With the Panthers having won 11 of 12 games since the beard emerged, he really has no choice.

He has navigated his way with the help of savvy teammates familiar with the way of the beard. Helpful pointers have included aficionado basics such as how to properly trim the beard, manage tangles, etc.

There have also been tips on how to deal with otherwise simple, day-to-day tasks. Meals and a plan of attack often have to be considered well in advance in order to avoid embarrassment or complete disaster.

Olsen, to the chagrin of a few of his mentors, has gone his own way on occasion. He has chosen to trim the mustache more closely than the rest of the beard, giving it an off-balance appearance. Still, even the detractors of that particular style embraced it as an expression of creativity and individualism.

“It is a lifestyle,” center Ryan Kalil said. “There’s definitely a sense of respect for a guy with a beard. I think there’s science that guys with beards are more trustworthy. Abe Lincoln (is a good example). Shakespeare was big on beards, too.”

Those are solid examples. Fortunately for Olsen, his wife, Kara, has bought into the initiative, as well.

An understanding spouse
The possibility of a playoff beard, or any other sort of facial hair, was never mentioned before they were married five years ago. Olsen said that if it had been included in any sort of prenuptial agreement, then he would have to “break the promise.”

It was unclear whether he was talking about his marital vows or his pledge to do whatever is necessary to win a championship.

“She’s not crazy about it, but she understands what’s at stake,” Olsen said. “She’s a team player and gets it. This is strictly for team benefit.”
Having support at home is important.

It certainly makes it easier for Olsen to focus on the task at hand, that being the Panthers’ first playoff game since 2008. And the beard will grow with each win — along with Carolina’s chances of advancing to the Super Bowl.

The end will eventually come for both, however. The beard will vanish either with a Panthers championship or an early playoff exit.

“It’s not an offseason commitment, it’s simply an in-season commitment,” Olsen said. “I don’t know if I could live my whole life with this beard.”

Olsen says that now.

But what if the beard delivers a Super Bowl title? He might want to consult with Kara as to if shaving would jinx next season before it even begins.

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Greg Olsen Sets Panthers Record

TE Greg Olsen is the first non-wide receiver to lead the Panthers in receiving yards (816). WR Steve Smith (745) had led in 10 of last 11 years, with a broken leg in Week 1 of 2004 the only exception. Olsen set the record for most receptions (73) by a Panthers tight end in a season, breaking his own mark he set last year (69).

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Greg Olsen is Carolina's 'Good Guy'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen might win bigger awards this season, but this still is a "good" one.

Olsen was selected as the winner of the Pro Football Writers of America 2013 Tom Berry Good Guy Award.

Given annually to the player who is most cooperative with the media, the award is named after former High Point Enterprise Panthers beat writer Tom Berry, who passed away in 2009.

The award is voted on by the members of the local media that cover the team on a regular basis. Previous winners were James Anderson, Captain Munnerlyn, Jordan Gross and Brad Hoover.

Those that knew Berry will attest that the name of the award is fitting.

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Greg Olsen growing his own playoff beard

The Boston Red Sox tugged, pulled and rode their scraggly beards all the way to a World Series championship in the fall.

If it worked for the Sox, maybe putting the razors away will be good for the Panthers, as well.

Carolina has won nine of 10 games since tight end Greg Olsen began letting his beard grow out in early October, following a 22-6 loss to Arizona in Week 5.
“I started growing a beard, and the next thing you know we’d rallied off three, then four, then five (wins). I said, ‘Hey, I’m riding this thing out for the rest of the year,’ ” Olsen said Thursday.

“Ever since I haven’t shaved, our fortunes have turned. We were 1-3 the last time I shaved. So I’ve just been letting it roll. Every once in a while I give it a little trim so I don’t look completely ridiculous.”

Several other players, including receiver Steve Smith and a few offensive linemen, also have been letting their 5 o’clock shadows turn into beards – some with more success than others.

Left tackle Jordan Gross trimmed his beard because “it looks so bad long.”

But Gross added, “I haven’t cut my hair in a long time.”

Center Ryan Kalil said the Panthers are not trying to follow Boston’s hirsute lead.

“I think I talked (Olsen) into it just because I wanted him to have a sweet beard,” Kalil said. “We’re not the Red Sox. It’s more just a line you tell the wives so they let you grow it.”

With his shaggy hair and bushy beard, Olsen is starting to look a bit like Tom Hanks’ character in “Castaway.” Olsen said some teammates have called him a lumberjack.

“You see a lot of the other guys have kind of started growing (beards). It’s kind of a fun thing to do,” Olsen said. “You always have the playoff beards every year. We just started a little early.”

Despite his new shaggy style and the Panthers’ success, Olsen said he doesn’t plan to keep the beard during the offseason.

“I’m not a good beard (guy). This will be off the day after the season,” Olsen said. “This isn’t really my look, but I’m going with it for the better of the team. I’m more of a clean-kept guy.”

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Greg Olsen inspired to help other families after dealing with young son's heart condition

The phone connection isn't as clear as it could be, yet the excitement and joy in Greg Olsen's voice is unmistakable when he is asked about his son TJ.

"He's doing great," Olsen said. "He just turned a year [old] in October. He has two of his surgeries behind him, and he's starting to flourish and lead a pretty normal life."

But life for Greg and his wife, Kara, has been far from normal since TJ and his twin sister, Talbot, were born. Talbot was born healthy, but TJ was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which the left side of the heart is unable to pump blood properly.

Before he celebrated that first birthday, TJ Olsen already had undergone two heart surgeries. But he has survived and thrived, and his fight has inspired Olsen to donate money for families with similarly-afflicted children.

"As a family, [TJ's condition] snapped us into what's really important," said Olsen, a former Wayne Hills star who is a standout tight end for the Carolina Panthers, who host the Jets on Sunday. "This situation with TJ was about as bad as it could be for us as parents and as a family.

"I think it frames [a different] perspective on everything in your life," Olsen added. "The little things like dealing with injuries and dealing with nagging stuff, it's all trivial and minor compared to the stuff that we've been through."

What helped the Olsens get through it was the fact they were able to hire a live-in nurse for five months between TJ's first and second surgeries, to help monitor him and provide round-the-clock care.

"It's a little overwhelming for a family," Olsen said. "We were able to bring in a nurse who specializes in newborns. … We always had an extra set of hands."
The Olsens, who also have an older son, Tate, believe that extra care helped TJ make rapid progress. And that made them wonder what it's like for families who don't have an NFL player's salary to help pay for things.

"That was really the inspiration behind starting the program," said Olsen, referring to the HEARTest Yard Fund, now part of Olsen's foundation, Receptions For Research (

In June, Olsen's foundation donated $289,325 to the Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., and fundraising efforts are ongoing. Olsen said the money raised will be administered through the hospital to help families in need.

Dr. Benjamin Peeler, chief of pediatric and adult congenital cardiothoracic surgery for Carolinas HealthCare System, said there is a five- to 15-percent mortality rate before the second surgery for babies born with single-ventricle defects such as HLHS.

Peeler said Olsen approached him about two to three months after TJ's first operation about setting up a fund to help families in similar situations.
"I can't say enough about the Olsen family and Kara's family," Peeler said. "They're unbelievable people."

Olsen's foundation first was started to help fund cancer research. His mother, Sue, is a breast cancer survivor. She and his father, Chris Sr., have moved to North Carolina now that the former Wayne Hills football coach and athletic director has retired.

"It's been a treat," Olsen said of having his parents around, noting they usually go out to eat after Panthers home games.

Peeler, TJ's surgeon, said he is progressing well, although he still faces a third surgery at some point to help re-route blood away from the nonfunctioning ventricle. He said TJ is growing rapidly, which is a great sign.

"He's bigger than his twin sister," Peeler marveled. "By all rights, he should be smaller."

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Greg Olsen targeted 12 times in loss

Greg Olsen caught eight passes for 40 yards in the Panthers' Week 14 loss to the Saints.
With Cam Newton forced to check down all game, Olsen led the Panthers with 12 targets. He was held out of the end zone for the second straight week, but continues to be heavily involved in the passing game. Olsen will be a solid TE1 for the second week of the fantasy playoffs. He'll match up with the Jets, who have been giving up a ton of production to opposing tight ends.

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Greg Olsen keeps up strong production for Panthers

After four touchdowns in the previous five games, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen was held out of the end zone Sunday. The tight end still tallied decent fantasy production, though, as he set a season high in yardage as the Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-6.

Olsen caught five passes for 85 yards, one higher than his previous season high of 84 yards in Week 2. The tight end now has 611 yards and five touchdowns on 50 catches this season, and has at least eight fantasy points in five of his last six games.

Other than Olsen, no one on the Panthers did a lot in the receiving game. Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell each caught touchdown passes, but combined for only five catches and 83 yards, neither doing much outside of those scores. Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith was the yardage leader among wide receivers, but still had only 51 yards on three receptions.

Fantasy impact: Olsen has increasingly proven to be the best -- and, in shallow leagues, only -- fantasy option on the Panthers among the flex players (running backs, wide receivers, tight ends). The running backs -- DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert -- battle each other and quarterback Cam Newton for touches too much for any single running back to be fantasy effective, and the wide receivers have the same problem with the added "bonus" of being by and large very mediocre. Olsen, though, is the team's only real tight end option, and has solidified his TE1 status this season.

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Greg Olsen catches game-winner for Carolina

Greg Olsen caught five passes for 34 yards with a touchdown in Sunday's Week 13 win at Miami.
Olsen was second on the team with nine targets. His touchdown was a goal-line game-winner, coming with just 43 seconds left off a play-action fake that left the tight end wide open. Olsen now has four scores in his last five games and is a decent bet for another touchdown when the Panthers take on the Bucs in Week 13. He's a low-end TE1.

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Greg Olsen catches five passes, TD in MNF win

Greg Olsen caught five passes for 52 yards and one touchdown in Week 11 against the Patriots.
Olsen tied for the team lead with Brandon LaFell at eight targets. On the three misfires, Cam Newton simply overthrew his tight end on short routes. Olsen secured his 15-yard touchdown on a third-and-four corner route, beating Devin McCourty. It was a perfect throw by Newton. Olsen has now scored in three of the last four games and remains locked in as a TE1. He could do a lot of damage next week against a Miami defense that struggles to cover tight ends.

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Greg Olsen giving back after off-the-field fight of lifetime

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On any given game day, the winner is defined by the battles for victory.

But it's Greg Olsen's fight of a lifetime that took place away from the football field – a fight for his family.

Last year, when the Panthers tight end and his wife had twins, one of them had a rare heart defect.

Doctors weren't sure if T.J. could even survive the delivery.

He spent 35 days in the hospital.

Now, just a year later at Greg and Kara Olsen's home, it's hard to keep up with their three children.

T.J. and his twin sister, Talbot, are now 1. Their older brother, Tate, is 2 years old.

T.J. is now thriving at home and has been through two surgeries and still has one left.

But they all know it's been hard getting to where they are today.

"I don't think we ever thought we would be at this point, living a relatively normal life," Kara said.

"We didn't know if he was going to make it," Greg said. "We had 24-hour around-the-clock care for him and we personally believe it's a huge reason why he's doing so well today and we want to bring that care to all the children that are born with this discharge here."

That's when Greg and Kara decided to do more to help other families that maybe don't have the resources to care for a child requiring constant care.

They created Receptions for Research and have already donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte to help families in similar situations.

They have also held benefits to not only raise money, but raise awareness.

Greg describes the foundation's mission as, "Helping the family transition from the hospital and doctors into the home with a little bit of the transition process to really make sure these babies are cared for properly."

That care T.J. found right at home.

"We're thankful for every day that we have together now," Kara said. "There's new perspective."

"We made it through this, I think we can make it pretty much through anything," Greg said.

The Olsen are making it through one day at a time, one battle at a time and focused on the simple things far from the field and close to their heart.

"Who is your favorite player on the Carolina Panthers," Greg asked Tate.

"Cam Newton," Tate says.

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Greg Olsen goes 4/66/1 versus Falcons

Greg Olsen caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in Carolina's Week 9 win over the Falcons.
Olsen's 14-yard touchdown came on a naked bootleg on 4th-and-1 from the Falcons' 14-yard line midway through the second quarter. Olsen was all alone for the score on a daring play-call from "Riverboat" Ron Rivera's newly adventurous staff. Olsen also appeared to tweak his lingering foot injury, but stayed in the game. 4/66/1 isn't a high-end TE1 performance, but the kind of stat-line owners can expect from Olsen on a weekly basis. On pace for 68/852/6 this season, Olsen will remain a locked-in TE1 for Week 10 against the 49ers.

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Greg Olsen finds end-zone in Week 8

Greg Olsen had three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown in Thursday night's win over the Bucs.
Olsen has been dealing with a foot injury the last three weeks and still isn't full healthy. He was targeted just four times in the passing game, but managed to score on a wide open one-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Olsen will be a low-end TE1 in Week 9 against the Falcons.

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Greg Olsen returns to practice sans boot

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen practiced Thursday without the walking boot he was seen wearing Wednesday, according to Charlotte Observer beat writer Joe Person. He had missed practice Wednesday with an undisclosed foot/ankle injury. With the walking boot off, it appears Olsen is set to go Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Minnesota Vikings.

Through four games this season, Olsen has caught 21 passes for 273 yards, with one touchdown. He has had a reception of at least 24 yards in every game this season.

Fantasy impact: Olsen is in a lump of tight ends just behind the top tier. After the group that includes (with some variation, sure, and in any order) Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron, Rob Gronkowski, and Tony Gonzalez, there is a next group, wherein you'll find Olsen, Antonio Gates, Martellus Bennett, Jermichael Finley, and maybe guys like Coby Fleener, Jared Cook, and the new starter Garrett Graham.

If Olsen is healthy and a go for Sunday, he'll be right in that group. With Gonzalez on a bye, that will have him ranked anywhere from seventh to 14th, and any ranking in there is legitimate and defensible. Most fantasy owners are unlikely to own two from the groups there, so a starting Olsen is probably a fantasy-useful Olsen. That said, someone who stumbled into someone like Graham might want to lean that way, just for the safety.

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Greg Olsen wearing protective boot

Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen left the team's locker room wearing a protective boot on his left foot Monday and sporting a visible limp. There likely won't be any additional information regarding the severity of his injury or his status until the Panthers return to practice Wednesday.

Fantasy Analysis:
Another reporter saw Olsen walking with a limp after Carolina's Week 5 loss to Arizona. It's been another slow and steady season for the seventh-year tight end. He is ranked around 12th in most formats at his position. Through four games, he's caught at least four passes for 54 yards in each contest. There's nothing flashy to his game, but he can still contribute reliable production week in and week out. If he plays in Week 6, he should be in your starting lineup assuming you don't have a better option.

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Greg Olsen goes for 79 yards in Week 5

Greg Olsen caught five passes for 79 yards in the Panthers' Week 5 loss to the Cardinals.
Another solid, if unspectacular performance out of Olsen, who through four games is on pace for 84 receptions, 1,092 yards, and four touchdowns. Hopefully for Olsen's owners, the scoring will pick up, because the catches and yardage numbers are rock solid. He'll be a low-end TE1 in Week 6 against Minnesota.

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Greg Olsen held to 54 yards in Week 3 win

Greg Olsen caught four balls for 54 yards in the Panthers' Week 3 win over the Giants.

He also had a tough drop down the sideline. Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes, but this was a run-oriented approach from Carolina, leaving the pass catchers with mediocre to poor production. Olsen saw a team-high eight targets against the Giants, and will remain a back-end, relatively low-upside TE1 play in Week 5 against the Cardinals, following Carolina's Week 4 bye.

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Greg Olsen leads Carolina in receiving, scores TD

Greg Olsen had seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's Week 2 loss to Buffalo.

Olsen led the Panthers in receiving and was targeted eight times. He got the majority of his yardage on check downs and in the short passing game, including a 13-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. Olsen is locked in as a TE1 option and will have another plus matchup in Week 3 against the Giants.

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Greg Olsen paces Panthers in receiving Sunday

Greg Olsen led the Panthers with 56 yards receiving on five catches in Sunday's Week 1 loss to the Seahawks.

Olsen saw a team-high ten targets, two more than Steve Smith. Olsen could have had a much bigger afternoon. He dropped two passes, and one could have gone for 20-plus yards up the right sideline. Olsen is locked in as an every-week TE1. He and Steve Smith are all Cam Newton has to throw to.

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Greg Olsen sees seven targets on Thursday

Greg Olsen caught three passes for 44 yards in the Panthers' third preseason game against the Ravens on Thursday night.
Olsen saw a team-high seven targets, but he struggled to catch the ball a bit just like the rest of the Carolina receiving corps not named Steve Smith. We're not concerned with Olsen; he's the No. 2 option in the Panthers passing attack. After three preseason games, Olsen has four catches for 64 yards. He checks in as our No. 6 tight end, but it's an interchangeable group.

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Greg Olsen stops to help after crash

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen assisted at the scene of a traffic accident in south Charlotte on Monday, getting out of his vehicle to wait with an elderly man involved in the wreck until authorities arrived.

Olsen, entering his third season with the Panthers, downplayed his role in the accident at the intersection of Colony and Sharon roads.

“Just was making sure he was OK 'til (the) cops got there,” Olsen said in a text message to the Observer. “Not a big deal.”

Medical personnel responded, but it's unclear whether there were any injuries, according to WCNC-TV.

The incident came a month after Olsen and his wife donated $289,000 through his foundation to Levine Children's Hospital to help families of pediatric heart patients pay for in-home care, physical therapy and speech therapy after they leave the hospital.

The Olsens' son, TJ, was born in October with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart. He has undergone two of three scheduled surgeries he will require before his third birthday.

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VIDEO: Barstool Bro Show Featuring Greg Olsen Charity Kickball Tournament

Barstool Bro Show Featuring Greg Olsen Charity Kickball Tournament from Barstool Blackout Tour on Vimeo.

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Greg Olsen, wife act to aid families of pediatric heart patients

After his newborn son spent his first month in pediatric intensive care with a congenital heart defect, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said taking him home was a little nerve-wracking.

“The first night I made him his formula, we almost had to take him back to the hospital because I thought I was going to hurt him,” Olsen said.

Olsen and his wife, Kara, hired a nurse who lived with them for four months and helped out with TJ, who was born in October with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart.

At each of TJ's checkups, doctors marveled at how well TJ was eating and growing. The Olsens attributed it to the extra set of hands at home while TJ awaited his second surgery.

“We said, ‘Fortunately, we were able to provide this for ourselves. But what if we could provide this for everybody, regardless of their situation, no questions asked. No insurance, nothing. If they need it, we'll provide it to them for free,'.” Olsen said.

What followed were a series of meetings with hospital executives, sit-downs with corporate sponsors and a charity golf tournament – capped by a $289,325 gift from Olsen's foundation to the Levine Children's Hospital.

The donation, announced at a press conference Friday in Levine's atrium, will go toward helping families of pediatric heart patients pay for in-home care, physical therapy and speech therapy after they leave the hospital.

Olsen said the gift will cover the in-home costs for the 25 babies born with HLHS and other single-ventricle defects at Levine each year. He hopes to extend the HEARTest Yard Fund to include families of all pediatric heart patients, and eventually branch out to other area hospitals.

Children born with HLHS face three surgeries in their first three years, including two in their first six to eight months.

Benjamin Peeler, chief of pediatric and adult congenital cardiothoracic surgery at Carolinas HealthCare System, said between five to 15 percent of HLHS and other single-ventricle babies die before their second surgery.

Peeler said he hopes the Olsens' gift will help lower that interstage mortality rate while providing families support during the critical, six-month period after birth.
“It's a lot to have round-the-clock care with medical experts in the hospital,” Peeler said. “But then we send families home and the next day it's just all you at home without the support network.”

Friday's announcement was attended by Olsen's parents and his brother Kevin, a freshman quarterback at Miami. All three of the Olsens' children also were there: 2-year-old Tate, Talbot, TJ's twin sister, and TJ, who wore a onesie emblazoned with the HEARTest Yard logo.

Olsen hopes the fund will help families better endure a trying process.

“It's never really ending,” he said. “These kids are going to go through three surgeries in three years, two in their first eight months. It's not a one-and-done and you go home. It's a continuous long process and the future is still a little unclear for these kids.”

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Greg Olsen contributing $289,000 to Levine Children's Hospital fund

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is giving from his heart.

Olsen, whose son, T.J., was born with a heart defect, will donate more than $289,000 to Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Children's Hospital through his foundation that will help provide home care support to pediatric heart patients once they're discharged.

The contribution will be presented Friday at 2 p.m. at the hospital as part of Olsen's HEARTest Yard Fund. According to a press release, the fund will "extend the family-centered care concept beyond the hospital walls so the transition from there to the home will be easier for other families with children suffering with congenital heart defects."

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Greg Olsen showing rapport with Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen is showing great timing with QB Cam Newton during offseason workouts.

Fantasy Tip: Olsen could re-establish himself as a solid No. 1 tight end option this season. He's expected to play most snaps and could develop into Newton's top target. Look at him as a sneaky low-end No. 1 option.

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Greg Olsen draws inspiration from infant son's difficult journey

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Olsen is a football player all his life, starting tight end for the Carolina Panthers, presumed tough guy. And he marvels at the strength of his infant son, T.J.

"I wish I was as tough as him," Olsen said. "If I was as tough as him, I'd be in good shape. What he's gone through in his first eight months of life is more than any of us have gone through in a lifetime. You know, two open-heart surgeries, the countless medications, the exams; you know he's been through it all, and he just bounces back."

In April 2012, a prenatal diagnosis indicated that one of the twins being carried by Greg's wife, Kara Olsen, had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a severe congenital heart defect characterized by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta. On Oct. 11, two days after birth, T.J. underwent a long, delicate surgery. On Nov. 6, he went home, though the certainty of another complex surgery always loomed. About two weeks ago, T.J. had the second of three surgeries required by the time he's a toddler.

These days, T.J. plays at home with his twin sister, Talbot, and their older brother, Tate, who recently turned 2. In a family playroom, T.J. appears to be the picture of health.

"Even the doctors and nurses say, 'This is a hypoplast (baby)?' " Kara said. "A 'single-ventricle baby' is what they call them. He's so big and he looks so healthy. You know, he's just truly a miracle in every way, shape and form. He just truly amazes us every day."

These are happy times for the Olsens, who want no pity, are determined to help other families facing similar challenges, and treasure every moment with their three children.

"It's almost hard to put into words what (T.J. has) taught us about the true importance of family," said Greg, 28, "and the true importance of what it means to just have all three kids screaming -- but they're home, screaming at the dinner table."

Said Kara: "Having the five of us together is what truly matters."

During pregnancy, Kara knew her son had to weigh at least 5 pounds at birth in order to undergo surgery 48 hours later. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces. "It was such a sigh of relief," Kara said. (Talbot, born healthy, was a hardy 8 pounds, 1 ounce.)

Almost immediately after birth, T.J. was whisked away to the cardiovascular intensive care unit. "I was able to hold him for about 20 minutes the day before his surgery, but that was the only time I got to hold him," Kara said. "And that was really, as a mom, that was probably the hardest thing."

The day after T.J.'s initial surgery, Kara and Talbot were discharged from the hospital. It was heartbreaking, Kara said, "leaving the hospital with only one baby."
"We got through it," Greg said. "We got through it, and we're here with only one more (surgery) to go."

Because of T.J., Greg and Kara have learned about perspective and how to dismiss the "little things" that are, truly, little things.

They felt the generosity of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson -- T.J.'s full name is Trent Jerry, his middle name given in honor of Richardson -- who provided his private plane and traveled with them to Boston to make sure the Olsens received proper medical advice after the diagnosis.

And they came to appreciate the circumstances that led them to the Charlotte area --- which, it turned out, was exactly where they needed to be.

Greg and Kara met at the University of Miami. He was a first-round draft pick by the Bears in 2007, then was traded to the Panthers in July 2011. How perfect: The Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte has provided T.J. and his family with the best possible care, spearheaded by Dr. Benjamin Peeler, the Chief of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Peeler said T.J. "is doing great," largely because of the daily attention he received during his first six months at home. The Olsens were able to afford round-the-clock help as T.J. awaited his second surgery. Particularly with two other infants in the house, it was a full-time job: T.J. had to eat every three hours, with every meal charted to make sure his intake was sufficient; his oxygen saturation levels were checked regularly, as was his weight; he was given medications.

"It was very, very scary," Kara said, "because they stress to you how important it is and how critical this time is."

The Olsens know that most families facing similar challenges cannot afford such care. But they want them to have it.

Before T.J. came along, Greg started a foundation, Receptions for Research, in honor of his mother, who is a breast cancer survivor. The Olsens have since added another arm to the foundation: The HEARTest Yard, which will provide resources for families with single-ventricle babies.

"This is our platform," Kara said. "This is our way to help these families and help these babies."

The idea is to guide families through the critical period between the baby's arrival at home and the second surgery. The Olsens, who are working in conjunction with Peeler, officially will announce the initiative at a June 21 event at Levine Children's Hospital. They expect to begin providing financial assistance to families this summer.

There will be "no insurance companies to jump through, no cost to the hospital," Greg said. "The hospital will administer it, but the funds to provide this care -- to pay for the doctors, nurses, therapists -- will be completely funded through The HEARTest Yard."

The goal is to lower the mortality rate -- which Peeler said is thought to be as high as 15 percent -- between the first and second surgeries. "We feel this is the most tangible, direct way to impact that percentage and change these babies' lives forever," Greg said.

Said Peeler, who estimated that "about a thousand" babies are born each year in the United States with hypoplastic left heart syndrome: "It's really a great thing for the babies, and we really think that it has a chance of making a huge difference as the years go by for their physical and neurological development."

Peeler said that while T.J. still has "a severe heart condition," he has given Greg and Kara this advice: "Now just let's go home, let's let T.J. be a baby, let's go live our life, and we'll catch back up with you in a couple years."

T.J. can travel now; he can play with other children. To the Olsens, that kind of normal never sounded so good.

"Looking back, it's taught us so much as people," Greg said. "(T.J.) has brought us so much joy. He's brought us so many life lessons (and) really opened our eyes to what's important in life and where priorities lay with our family."

"He's changed a lot of lives already, changed ours," Kara said. "(He has) changed our family, but now that it's affecting others positively, it makes us very proud."

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Greg Olsen's infant son takes next step

CHARLOTTE - Initially, tight end Greg Olsenicon-article-link 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."

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Greg Olsen: ‘I wouldn’t trade myself for anybody’

While veteran tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. tries out this week at the New York Jets' minicamp, the Panthers have yet to sign anyone to replace No. 2 receiving tight end Gary Barnidge.

But starting tight end Greg Olsen, coming off a career year, says the Panthers are good at the position.

Olsen was better than that in 2012, establishing career highs with 69 catches for 843 yards. And though Barnidge followed former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to Cleveland, Olsen doesn't see a void when he looks around the tight end meeting room.

“I think we've had as good an offseason as a group of guys that I've been around,” Olsen said Tuesday after a walkthrough on the first day of the team's three-day minicamp.

Olsen proved last season he doesn't need a lot of help. After the Panthers chose not to re-sign Jeremy Shockey following the 2011 season, Olsen was excited about the chance to be a featured receiver.

He delivered.

Olsen, who came to Carolina in a trade with Chicago two years ago, broke Wesley Walls' marks for the most prolific season by a Panthers tight end, gaining 843 yards on 69 catches. Olsen's receiving yardage ranked fourth among NFL tight ends, trailing Dallas' Jason Witten, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez.

“It was nice to finally get a lot more opportunities, like a lot of the other guys throughout the league get,” Olsen said. “I think I showed that I can do as much, if not more, than anybody in the league, especially with the way our offense is here. We don't get substituted out on run plays. We don't get substituted out on pass-blocking. If there's 75 snaps, I played 75 snaps. Whatever that job entailed, I had to do it.”

Since entering the league in 2007 as the Bears' first-round draft choice, Olsen ranks among the top 10 players at his position in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Yet, Olsen has never been selected to a Pro Bowl and is seldom included in discussions about the league's premiere tight ends.

“I say it to guys a lot. You don't have to go out and seek attention. By the team winning, attention ends up finding you,” Olsen said. “And if you look around the league, the so-called marquee guys that everyone talks about, obviously their individual play is pretty good. But you look at their team, they're in the playoffs. They're competing for division titles. They're competing every year making a run at the playoffs.

“I don't get too worked up. I see all that stuff on the NFL Network about top (tight ends). And I take note of all that. But I wouldn't trade myself for anybody.”

Olsen, 28, is starting to gain recognition. Last season he made USA Today's All-Joe team, comprised of unsung players who have never been chosen to a Pro Bowl.

Olsen's teammates don't overlook him.

“I love the guy,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “He's hard to cover. He's a good blocker. I've never seen him get the hand-off, but I'm sure he would take it to the house. I've never seen him have a bad play. He's always out here giving 100 percent in practice, even though he's like 90 years old. He's super fast. He's versatile.”

Olsen had his best season last year despite dealing with a health issue involving his newborn son, TJ, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in utero. Two weeks ago, TJ underwent the second of three surgeries he faces to correct a condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta.

“He came home the end of last week and he's doing very well,” Olsen said. “So we're very fortunate. He's been great.”

As for the tight ends, Olsen said it's been cool watching Ben Hartsock, known primarily as a blocker, step outside his comfort zone. Hartsock, entering his 10th season, has 31 career catches – less than half of Olsen's 2012 total.

But Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Hartsock is a good complement to Olsen.

“You look at his catches, they're all on the underneath routes – the quick ins, the quick outs,” Rivera said. “People miss the value of that when you have one tight end that can stretch the field and the other one that can attack the middle.”

Another receiving threat among the tight ends could be Nelson Rosario, a former UCLA wide receiver who spent last season on the Panthers' practice squad.
“You've got a guy who's 6-5, 245 pounds who can run and jump and catch the ball,” Olsen said. “It's a good place to start.”

Having Olsen as the No. 1 tight end isn't a bad starting point, either.

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Greg Olsen Celebrity Bucket List Promo

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Greg Olsen restructures contract with Panthers

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is the latest player to restructure his contract to help his team free up some cap space.

A league source tells PFT that Olsen, who was initially owed a $3.75 million base salary, will now get a $3 million option bonus and a $750,000 base salary. The option bonus will be due between the first and 10th day of the league year, which begins March 12.

The move will save the Panthers $2.4 million on this year’s salary cap.

Olsen, who also restructured his contract to save the Panthers some cap room last year, is coming off a 2012 season in which he started all 16 games and had a career-high 69 catches for a career-high 843 receiving yards.

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Greg Olsen uses off-season to improve NC medical law

CHARLOTTE—It is the off-season for Carolina Panther Greg Olsen, but he is still right in the middle of an off the field challenge to change state law.

Last year, Olsen's son was born with a heart defect and Olsen used his son's story to promote more comprehensive heart testing in all North Carolina hospitals.

TJ was born last year with a congenital heart defect, a condition determined before he was born.

"As difficult as it was, we were able to explore different options and learn more about the condition," said Olsen.

But not every parent is so lucky to have that knowledge before birth, and not every newborn in North Carolina has their heart thoroughly tested.

"A couple days of life and their lungs now start mixing the oxygen with the blood is when the problem arises,” said Olsen.

That is why Olsen and his wife Kara are fighting to change NC law and have pulse oximetry screening, which checks a heart's function, be a mandatory test before newborns are released from the hospital.

"We're not talking drawing blood, we're not talking lab results, machines, we're talking a little box that you hit a button,” said Olsen.

Tuesday, Olsen met with the state's Health and Human Services Committee in Raleigh to lobby for the change. The proposal passed committee and is soon set for a House vote.

"I think it felt like a little minor victory, the first step to something that we feel is very important [something that we think will help so many kids in the North Carolina area]," said Olsen.

Olsen hopes the measure will ensure more babies like TJ have their first days of life filled with happy, healthy heartbeats. According to the March of Dimes, about one in every 125 infants are born with heart defects each year. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services also recently recommended the Pulse Oximetry Screening be part of tests for all newborns.

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Greg Olsen has more class than flash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Former Panthers tight end Wesley Walls used to celebrate touchdowns by pretending to shoot the ball as though it were a duck or a clay pigeon.

Greg Olsen celebrates touchdown by handing the ball to the official.

But after getting passed over for the Pro Bowl, despite breaking Walls' team record for catches by a tight end during the best season of his six-year career, Olsen joked that he might need to come up with a signature move.

"Maybe I should start celebrating a little bit more, dunking and doing all that stuff. Because I think sometimes that's what draws a lot of attention," Olsen said Thursday. "But that's just not who I am."

Instead, Olsen is a versatile player who, depending on the situation, could be catching a long pass from Cam Newton or blocking for him. Olsen has established career highs this season with 65 catches for 800 yards, and needs 23 yards to break Walls' receiving yardage record for a Panthers tight end.

But he's also improved as a blocker, and often is asked to line up in the backfield and help out with pass protection. Yet many observers still view Olsen as a one-dimensional, pass-catching tight end.

"That's always been the knock on me. But the funny part is the people who make that knock don't watch the tapes. If you actually stop to watch the tape, I think people would be surprised," Olsen said.

Olsen, 27, was Chicago's first-round draft pick in 2007 after leading Miami with 40 receptions his final season with the Hurricanes. He spent his first four seasons in Chicago before the Bears traded him to Carolina for a third-round pick in 2011 because then-coordinator Mike Martz did not believe he fit into his offense.

Olsen said his reputation as a poor blocker has followed him since college.

"Early in my career, obviously, I wasn't the greatest blocker. But these last couple years - you don't play every down in the NFL if you can't block. You can't hide," he said. "I take a lot of pride in never coming out. And in order to play every play, you have to do it all."

Olsen said the two NFC tight ends in the Pro Bowl - Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez and Dallas' Jason Witten - are deserving players and future Hall-of-Famers. But Olsen said he was disappointed he was not selected as an alternate.

"I was a little surprised, to be blunt. I thought I had as good a season as anybody," Olsen said. "There are not a lot of guys that play every snap and have to do everything."

Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross, whose locker is next to Olsen's, said Olsen has been the ultimate team player since coming to Charlotte.

"Greg has been a huge pick-up for us. He's a guy that does stuff the right way, works hard. Blocks more than most starting tight ends in the league ever dream of blocking. And has a great set of hands on him, as well," Gross said. "He deserves the ball, deserves way more attention than he gets."

Olsen's 65 receptions rank fifth among tight ends - behind Witten (103), Gonzalez (88), New Orleans' Jimmy Graham (76) and Pittsburgh's Heath Miller (71). Miller will miss the Steelers' last game after undergoing knee surgery Thursday.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Olsen's value extends beyond statistics.

"He's a well-rounded tight end. He's not a pass-catching guy by any stretch of the imagination. He's developed into a good blocker," Rivera said. "He's not catching as many passes as some of those other guys. But you have to think about where he fits with what we're doing and just realize how important he is to us."

Olsen is friendly with Walls, who played for the Panthers from 1996-2002 and ranks third on the team's receiving list. The two attended the Wells Fargo Championship with their families last spring at Quail Hollow, where Walls is a member.

Olsen was not familiar with Walls' shotgun routine. And though it might not get him noticed, Olsen plans to keep his celebrations low-key.

"I'm not a big rah-rah, attention-seeking guy," Olsen said. "I know a lot of guys around the league are. That's just not really my thing."

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proCanes Players of Week 14

Offensive Player of the Week:

Reggie Wayne: proCane Colts WR Reggie Wayne caught six passes for 64 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's Week 14, 27-23 win over the Titans. Wayne was targeted 10 times on the afternoon and caught his touchdown pass from four yards out to get the Colts on the board in the first quarter. Wayne extended his NFL record 61 game streak of having 3 or more receptions.

Honorable Mention: Greg Olsen

Co-Defensive Players of Week:

Sam Shields: proCane Packers DB Sam Shields in his first game back from a high-ankle sprain that kept him out nearly two months regained his old spot by the second quarter. Shields returned with four tackles and an interception in Sunday's win over the Lions. Shields was targeted 5 times and only allowed one completion.

Antrel Rolle: proCane New York Giants DB Antrel Rolle recorded a fumble recovery and forced fumble on successive drives, adding in six tackles in a stout defensive performance. Through Week 14, Rolle ranks first on the team in solo tackles (61) and second on the team in total tackles (79).
Honorable Mention: Vince Wilfork DL New England Patriots finished the game with 4 tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and numerous plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Travis Benjamin:
proCane Browns WR Travis Benjamin proved to provide the momentum the Browns needed to run away with their 30-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Benjamin turned in a record-setting punt return when he ran 93 yards for a touchdown to open the second quarter. It was Benjamin’s first NFL punt return for a TD which also earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Benjamin's touchdown was the first on a punt return for a Cleveland rookie since 1967, and the first for any returner not named Josh Cribbs since 2005. Adding the longest punt return in franchise history to his resume, the Belle Glade, Fla., native now has over 400 all-purpose yards in his first season, including 296 on punt and kick returns.

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Greg Olsen limited in practice

Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen (back) was limited in practice Thursday, Dec. 6.

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proCane Players of Week 13

Offensive Player of the Week:

Greg Olsen: Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen who only had one catch on the day was a big one as Olsen's 47-yard score, which tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter, was the second-longest play of his career, and his best since a 52-yard reception in 2008. Olsen ranks second on the team with 50 catches and 636 yards. He is one of two proCane tight ends with more than 600 receiving yards on the season, joining New Orleans Saints' Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham (654). Olsen this week set a new career high with 636 yard receiving this season.

Honorable Mention: Reggie Wayne: proCane Colts WR Reggie Wayne was held to four catches for 51 yards in the Colts' Week 13 win over the Lions but Wayne extended his NFL record 60 games streak of having 3 or more receptions. Wayne is on pace for 117 catches, 1,541 yards and four touchdowns heading into a matchup with the Titans in Week 14.

Co-Defensive Players of Week:

Ed Reed: proCane Ravens safety Ed Reedplayed a role in two Ravens turnovers, including a key interception in the endzone off Steelers' quarterback Charlie Batch to preserve a late fourth-quarter lead. Reed increased his lead in all-time interception return yardage to 1,541 on the play, returning to Baltimore's 34-yard line. The interception, the 61st of his career, solidified the Reed’s position at No. 10 all-time in the category. Reed also recovered a fumble in the third quarter, the 10th recovery of his career.

Brandon Harris: proCane Houston Texans second-year cornerback was expected to play a key role in Sunday's game against Tennessee - and he delivered. Seeing an increased role due to injuries to usual starters in the secondary, Harris led the team with six tackles. Harris, who drew widespread praise for his performance, was also credited with two pass defenses. Harris will continue to play a key role for the Texans defense as injuries have taken a toll on their secondary.

Honorable Mention: Darryl Sharpton.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season and firmly planted himself among the better punters in the league. His performance against the Saints may have been one of the best games of his career. His punting average of 53.2 yards was a career high and his six punts tied a season high. Of those punts four were returned but credit the coverage teams for limiting the Saints to a 15-yard return average. The Saints average starting drive position was their own 25-yard line. Bosher's 47.9 punting average this season is ranked ninth in the league. His 15 fair catches on punts is tied for fourth in the NFL.

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Greg Olsen records one catch, a 47 yard TD

Greg Olsen made one catch for a 47 yard touchdown, on four targets, Sunday against the Chiefs.

Olsen started the scoring for the Panthers but failed to catch a pass for the remainder of the game. He has been working best downfield, either on outside breaking routes or down the seam, but expect Olsen to put up more than one catch in the coming weeks.

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Greg Olsen says Thanksgiving takes on a new meaning after 6-week-old son's surgery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thanksgiving has taken on a new meaning for Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen.

The stress Carolina fans have endured from the team's close losses this season pales in comparison to what Olsen and his wife Kara have been through the last few months.

Olsen's 6-week-old son T.J. was born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and spent the first four months of his life in Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. He faces two additional surgeries over the next three years — including one in three to five months — but for now is recovering well at home with his healthy twin sister Talbot and their 17-month-old brother Tate.

"It's going to be a whole different type of thankful this Thanksgiving for us," Olsen said. "Through the years you really lose track of what is important and obviously our season hasn't gone really well, but it's going to be such a blessing Thursday to have all of my kids home and together."

The Olsens first discovered there was a problem when prenatal tests on their twins revealed an issue with their unborn son's heart.

Two days after she gave birth to a pair of 8-pound babies on Oct. 9, T.J. was taken into surgery to repair an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta.

Olsen said doctors told him 25 years ago the condition would have been fatal, but with advancements in medicine there is now a 70 percent survival rate — and some children who've had the surgery are now doing well in their early twenties.

Olsen said T.J. is "thriving" in his recovery.

"He's been home for about two weeks and the biggest thing they told us was to continue to feed him, make sure he eats and continues to grow so he's ready for his next surgery," Olsen said. "He's really doing as well as we could have hoped. So now we're getting him ready for round two."

Regardless of how well the next two surgeries go, T.J. will never be like his father, who has played six seasons in the NFL with Carolina and Chicago.
Because of his condition, T.J. won't be able to play contact sports and certainly won't ever put on a football helmet, catch passes running across the middle or block a defensive end.

And Olsen is just fine with that.

Doctors "were saying it like they were trying to warn me," Olsen said. "And I was like, hey listen, you've got the wrong guy here. There's a good chance he wasn't going to play football anyway. I don't care. In times like this you realize if he's just a good student and a good person that is really all that matters at the end of the day."

Olsen said he and Kara were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from fans, teammates and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

He said the entire experience has changed his family forever.

"It's opened our eyes," Olsen said. "A lot of people, until they go through something like this, feel like it is always going to be somebody else. And now here we are going through something you read and hear about with other people. You get through that part of 'What did we ever do to deserve this?'

"But we got past that pretty quick and just kind of embraced it. We've taken on a positive outlook of hey, God wouldn't have given us this baby if we weren't able to handle it."

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10 Questions: Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen

We ask 10 questions of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen:

Q. Are you a “Modern Family” fan?
It’s my favorite show. It’s always something I watch. I love it.

Q. Which “Modern Family” character are you?
I always joke with my wife that my goal is to be Phil Dunphy. I don’t know if she feels that’s the perfect father role model but I think he’s hilarious. The whole thing with him is unbelievable. Everything he does to me is funny.

Q. What do you listen to in the car when you’re coming to the stadium?
I’m a music guy. I listen to the country channel here.

Q. Do you have particular favorites?
I really like pretty much all of it. I’m a big music fan. I’ll listen to it all.

Q. Any musical talent?
No. Zero.

Q. With young children, you probably don’t have much time but what’s date night like for you and your wife?
We like to go to dinner. That was our thing. We’ll get back to that at some point. We enjoy going out to nice dinners and trying places, especially when we travel. We don’t have a whole lot of hobbies. That’s our big splurge.

Q. Do you have any favorite places in Charlotte?
We go to Brio’s a lot. We go to 131 Main a lot near where we live. Ilios Noche is one of our favorite places for a real nice night without the kids. We love that.

Q. Do you have guilty pleasures when you’re home at night?
During the season, my comfort food. I probably eat pizza twice a week. I try to eat well but I have a soft spot for pizza and Peanut M&Ms.

Q. What’s your least favorite household chore?
The dishes. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. A lot of bottles. They don’t clean themselves.

Q. With what you and your family have been through with the birth of twins and your son TJ’s surgeries, how special will Thanksgiving be?
I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome. For months, we were hoping to have him home by Thanksgiving. We had him home a few weeks before. We’re just going to have family at the house and enjoy it. We have a lot to be thankful for.

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proCane Players of Week 10

Co-Offensive Players of the Week:

Jimmy Graham: proCane Saints TE Jimmy Graham hauled in seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets to lead the Saints to a 31-27 victory over the Falcons in Week 10. Safety William Moore bit twice on the double move, allowing Drew Brees to throw a pair of pump-fake deep balls to Graham for a 29-yard touchdown and a 46-yard fourth-quarter gain. Graham added a 14-yard score just before halftime. After his first 100-yard game of the season, Graham is averaging a 7/94/1.3 line over the past three weeks.

Greg Olsen: Following an emotional week for proCane Panthers TE Greg Olsen in which he welcomed his son TJ home after being hospitalized after birth and undergoing surgery due to a heart condition, Olsen exploded for a career-high nine receptions, 102 yards and two touchdowns versus the Broncos in Week 10. The 102 yards are a regular-season career high. Tight ends have been the weak spot in Denver's defense all season and today was no different. Olsen had catches of 26 and 16 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown and added a 5-yard score in garbage time.

Honorable Mention: Frank Gore, Reggie Wayne.

Defensive Player of Week:

Colin McCarthy: proCane Titans LB Colin McCarthy rose slowly after a violent hit and wobbled as he left the field. Three plays later he was back in the game and in the end zone, celebrating a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown. McCarthy and his team's embattled defense bounced back Sunday, when their four takeaways led to 20 points and helped the Titans beat the Miami Dolphins 37-3. McCarthy finished the game with 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss one INT and a TD. McCarthy’s TD put the Titans up 21-0 and essentially the game out of reach for the Dolphins.

Honorable Mention: Vince Wilfork, Allen Bailey.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season with 3 punts for 140 yards and a 46.7 average. Bosher had a long of 52 yards and placed one of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Bosher is also Atlanta’s holder and held two successful field goals for Matt Bryant.

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Greg Olsen has career day in loss to Broncos

Greg Olsen exploded for a career-high nine receptions, 102 yards and two touchdowns versus the Broncos in Week 10.

The 102 yards are a regular-season career high. Tight ends have been the weak spot in Denver's defense all season and today was no different. Olsen had catches of 26 and 16 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown and added a 5-yard score in garbage time. The only weak spot was pass protection, where Von Miller toyed with him all afternoon. Next week Olsen faces a Bucs defense allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

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Greg Olsen On The Health Of His Infant Son Following Surgery And The Support He’s Received

Nearly a month after TJ was born, Greg Olsen and his wife, Kara, were able to bring their infant son home from the hospital Tuesday, reuniting him with his twin sister and making the Olsen family complete.

TJ was born with a congenital heart defect which required surgery and weeks of recovery, and he’s slated the undergo two more procedures in the coming months and years.

Greg Olsen joined The Drive on WFNZ in Charlotte to discuss his son’s health, his family and how the team’s owner, the organization and the city have supported him during such a trying time.

On how his son is doing:
“Everybody’s doing good. It feels like it’s been a long time coming and something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and we’re just thankful that the doctors were able to give him such good treatment, and his recovery was a little faster than everyone really anticipated. He’s home now, and obviously there’s some follow-up stuff that Kara and he needs at home, but for the most part he’s home and we can kind of settle in as a family now and enjoy these next couple months before the next surgery.”

On bringing his son home to be with his twin sister and the rest of the family early this week:
“It was the first night we were able to have them all together at home, and brought him up to the nursery and all that. So that was obviously a special moment. It was a little bittersweet when we brought Talbot home a couple weeks ago and weren’t able to bring the whole crew, and just knowing as we sat around at night that one of the pieces of the family was at the hospital, going through some tough times. So we’re really thankful and feel really fortunate with the outcome, how it’s been so far. And we just hope that the next couple big stages of surgery go as well as the first one.”

On the support he’s received from owner Jerry Richardson, the organization and the city of Charlotte:
“It means everything. It shows you that the people have their priorities straight with this organization. And that’s the kind of team, that’s the kind of people that you want to work for and play for. Sometimes I think, in this business, people really lose track of that. Don’t get me wrong, we all take this very seriously, and we all want to win and win every game, but sometimes the bigger picture gets lost between all of us, and I think sometimes things get put back in perspective a little bit. It’s unfortunate that it had to be something like this, something so serious, but to see the true colors of people in situations when you need them the most is really the true test. And everybody kind of rallied around us and really was there for us through a really tough time when we first got the diagnosis back in the spring. Obviously what Mr. Richardson has done everyone has heard about, and I couldn’t be more thankful that he brought me here and then the help and the care we’ve got from the city and the hospital. It’s unbelievable how much sense everything makes looking back — just a year ago being brought here and not knowing we’d need the type of care that this city has to offer, and to happen to be right in our own backyard was amazing.”

On the intersection between the team’s struggles and his personal struggles:
“It’s been a rough couple months, but it doesn’t make the losses any easier, it doesn’t make them any harder. The reason they’re hard is you know how much time and effort the team and how much sweat and pain and everything that you put into each week and each game. And for the outcomes to go the way they did in such a heart-breaking way just makes the whole thing difficult. And then when it’s time to go home, though, that’s when my family needed me to be dad. And sometimes it’s not easy for us guys in this league to separate the two — you always end up bringing your work home with you, good or bad — and I really was trying to be aware of that. I didn’t need to bring my problems from practice home to my wife, who had a lot bigger fish to fry.”

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Greg Olsen’s son TJ home from hospital

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and his wife Kara brought their son home from the hospital Tuesday – four weeks after TJ Olsen was born with a congenital heart defect.

TJ Olsen spent nearly a month at the Levine Children’s Hospital after surgery to correct a condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta.

He faces two additional surgeries over his first three years. The next one will be scheduled within three to five months.

The Olsens were excited to reunite TJ with his twin sister, Talbot, who has no health issues, and his 17-month-old brother, Tate.

“Today is a day we have been looking forward to for the past 10 months. To have all our children home together is an amazing feeling,” Greg Olsen said in a text message to the Observer. “TJ is doing great and we look forward to enjoying our time as a family for the next few months until the next big hurdle. Thanks to everyone for all their continued support and prayers.”

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Greg Olsen’s life slowly returning to normal

CHARLOTTE – Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had been looking forward to the Panthers’ bye week with both anticipation and anxiety, knowing he would become the father of twins but knowing that one of the twins would be born with a serious heart condition.

Now, after a stressful but successful few days, Olsen can start the process of turning his attention back to football.

“It was nice to come back in here today, run around and get back in the swing of things,” Olsen said Monday. “It felt good to get back to reality a little bit.
“It’s been a hard week, but it’s been a good week.”

Since last Tuesday, Olsen’s life has been an unending series of ups and downs, but the prognosis for son T.J. is looking up.

T.J. had his chest closed Monday morning at Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolina Medical Center, four days after undergoing open-heart surgery to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare condition discovered by doctors early in Kara Olsen’s pregnancy.

“He is a strong baby,” Dr. Benjamin B. Peeler, Chief of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery at Levine, said in a statement. “His postoperative course thus far has been very smooth; however, this is a high-risk condition as well as a high-risk surgical procedure. The postoperative course can be unpredictable and complicated.

“Our team continues to care for T.J. very closely in the cardiac intensive care unit. We are very hopeful that T.J.’s recovery will continue on the same smooth course. The average time in the hospital after the Norwood procedure is about 40 days.”

While twin sister Talbot is now home, T.J. is expected to make Levine home for at least three weeks. After making it through the most dangerous of three surgeries – the Norwood procedure has a 75-percent survival rate – T.J. will undergo a second surgery at six months of age and a final one around his third birthday.

“We’re very fortunate for the care that he’s been able to get, and he’s responded really well to the multiple procedures they’ve done,” Olsen said. “We’re very blessed that he responded the way he did. The doctors at Levine’s have been incredible. We just continue to hope and pray that everything continues to progress as it has the first few days.

“We know he has a long road ahead of him – this is just the first of a few procedures that he’ll have – but he handled the first one really well. That gives us a lot of hope going forward.”

The support shown the Olsens has extended well beyond the hospital walls.

“It’s been incredible – the amount of emails, the letters to my house,” Olsen said. “The guys on the team organized two months of food for us to eat every single night of the week. Steve (Smith) and his wife organized it, and guys volunteered to send food over. It’s been incredible.

“Mr. (Jerry) Richardson came over, Coach (Ron) Rivera, Chud (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski), players. Everyone has come to see us, everyone has been there, saying, ‘Let me know if you need something.’ It really is a special community here.”

Smith, the elder statesmen of the team now in his 12th NFL season, said his wife, Angie, put together the feeding schedule.

“You’ve got a guy whose son is going to be in the hospital the next couple of weeks. You’ve got to deal with going back and forth, and they have two other kids,” Smith said. “It’s just what you do.”

While Kara Olsen is home with Talbot as well as 16-month-old son Tate, the family’s schedule is still stretched thin. Greg Olsen slept at the hospital the first four nights but has since returned home to help his wife get back on her feet.

“Mom’s doing real good. She’s unbelievably strong – you don’t carry around two eight-pound babies for 37 weeks if you’re not,” Olsen said. “Once she’s back to herself, a couple of nights a week I’ll go after practice and stay there (at the hospital) with T.J. just to make sure he feels that presence and knows somebody is there.

“In my mind, he knows when we’re there and when we’re not, so we’ll try to be there for him as much as we can.”

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Timing, teammates help Panthers’ Greg Olsen

Timing and teammates have helped Panthers tight end Greg Olsen through his newborn son’s first few days.

Olsen spent four days and nights at the hospital last week watching over his son, who was born with a heart defect that required surgery.

“It’s been a hard week but it’s been a good week. We’re fortunate for the care that he’s been able to get,” Olsen said. “He’s responded really well to the multiple procedures that they’ve done. We’re very fortunate and very blessed that he responded the way he did. The doctors and everyone have been incredible here at Levine (Children’s Hospital).”

Olsen’s wife, Kara, delivered twins on Tuesday, and TJ had his first surgery on Thursday. Olsen was able to get his mind off football for a week during the Panthers’ bye.

“I hadn’t put much thought into the game this last week or so,” he said. “And it really worked out well that it was the bye. It would have been tough yesterday having a game to prepare for all week, but I didn’t have to worry about that. It was nice to come in here today and run around and get into the swing of things.”

Several teammates, head coach Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and team founder/owner Jerry Richardson have visited the Olsens. Olsen said the outpouring from the community has been incredible – from emails to letters at his home to even a food drive.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and his wife organized the players and their significant others to supply meals each night for two months for the Olsens.

“It really is a special community,” Olsen said. “I’ve said it since the day I got here. ... In these bad times it really shows, but I knew it beforehand. This is a special group of people around here. It’s a really well-run organization. Right now we’re benefitting from it but it will be someone else some other time.”

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Timing, teammates help Panthers’ Greg Olsen

Timing and teammates have helped Panthers tight end Greg Olsen through his newborn son’s first few days.

Olsen spent four days and nights at the hospital last week watching over his son, who was born with a heart defect that required surgery.

“It’s been a hard week but it’s been a good week. We’re fortunate for the care that he’s been able to get,” Olsen said. “He’s responded really well to the multiple procedures that they’ve done. We’re very fortunate and very blessed that he responded the way he did. The doctors and everyone have been incredible here at Levine (Children’s Hospital).”

Olsen’s wife, Kara, delivered twins on Tuesday, and TJ had his first surgery on Thursday. Olsen was able to get his mind off football for a week during the Panthers’ bye.

“I hadn’t put much thought into the game this last week or so,” he said. “And it really worked out well that it was the bye. It would have been tough yesterday having a game to prepare for all week, but I didn’t have to worry about that. It was nice to come in here today and run around and get into the swing of things.”

Several teammates, coach Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and owner Jerry Richardson have visited the Olsens. Olsen said the outpouring from the community has been incredible – from emails to letters at his home to even a food drive.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and his wife organized the players and their significant others to supply meals for the Olsens.

“It really is a special community,” Olsen said. “I’ve said it since the day I got here. ... In these bad times it really shows, but I knew it beforehand. This is a special group of people around here. It’s a really well-run organization. Right now we’re benefitting from it but it will be someone else some other time.”

Still evaluating: Rivera said it will be later in the week before decisions are made regarding who will start at middle linebacker and right guard against Dallas on Sunday.

Rookie Luke Kuechly started in place of Jon Beason (knee) against Seattle and said he worked at middle and weakside linebacker Monday.

Rivera said earlier this season he preferred to keep Kuechly on the outside, but he was forced to adjust when Beason was unable to play against the Seahawks.

“The approach is you’ve got to see who is doing what and put them in the best position,” Rivera said. “Again, we just have to evaluate our players, evaluate what we do and how things fit.”

Geoff Hangartner is expected to replace Ryan Kalil at center, opening the starting right guard position to Jeff Byers or Garry Williams.

The Panthers added free agent Thomas Austin last week after Kalil’s season-ending injury was discovered.

Austin, undrafted out of Clemson, signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. He played three games with Houston in 2011 and most recently was with New England before being cut Oct. 2.

“He’s a veteran guy who’s played in this league. You try to find those kind of guys who are out there,” Rivera said. “He happened to be coming off an injury and we were able to sign him.”

Cowboy watch: ESPN reported Monday that Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray suffered a ligament injury to his foot but it is not season-threatening. Murray leads the Cowboys with 330 rushing yards and also has 17 receptions for 118 yards.

Rivera said the Panthers are planning to face Murray.

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Greg Olsen playing through concerns over son's health

CHARLOTTE—Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is in the midst of a productive season while dealing with a difficult time in his personal life.

Olsen's wife, Kara, delivered twins during the team's bye week. The baby girl is healthy, but the Olsens' son was born with a congenital heart condition diagnosed during prenatal exams.

TJ Olsen last week underwent the first of three open-heart surgeries scheduled before his third birthday. The first procedure is the most risky and invasive, but the doctor who performed the surgery said early signs are positive.

Olsen, in his second year with the Panthers, will be spending several nights a week at the Charlotte hospital, where TJ will remain for about 40 days. He said he's grateful for the support of the Panthers, including owner Jerry Richardson, who chartered a plane and accompanied the Olsens to Boston in May for consultations with pediatric heart specialists.

TJ's middle name is Jerry in honor of the Panthers' owner.

Meanwhile, Olsen is the Panthers' leading receiver with 22 catches and ranks among the top 10 tight ends in the league in receiving with 293 yards and a touchdown.

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Greg Olsen’s newborn son doing well after surgery

The newborn son of Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is doing well following open-heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.

T.J. Olsen underwent successful surgery Thursday at Levine Children’s Hospital – the first of three scheduled surgeries before his third birthday. Greg Olsen told the Observer on Friday that T.J.’s first 24 hours after the day-long procedure had gone well.

The first surgery is the most invasive and has the most risks.

“If he stays on this path they can close up his chest Sunday, which is another big step,” Olsen said via text message.

Kara Olsen delivered twins by Caesarian section Tuesday – a daughter, Talbot, and T.J., who was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome during Kara’s 18th week of pregnancy. The condition, more prevalent among males, is marked by an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta, causing the right side of the heart to overcompensate if left untreated.

Olsen said the family brought Talbot home from the hospital Friday. The Olsens also have a 16-month-old-son named Tate.

“Got to bring my baby girl home today to meet his big brother!!” Olsen posted on his Twitter feed Friday night. “Heading back to hospital to see my buddy. Bittersweet day.”

Olsen also tweeted about the support his family has received.

“Thank u all for the amazing support and prayers for my family,” he tweeted. “You have helped us thru this nightmare. Our boy is a fighter.”

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Greg Olsen's infant son has successful heart surgery

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen's wife, Kara, had twins this week, but the couple knew going into the childbirth, their infant son was going to have a tough fight.

Talbot, the newborn daughter, would be delivered in good health, but Greg and Kara had learned about halfway through the pregnancy that baby boy T.J. has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (an undeveloped left ventricle and aorta).

They also knew that T.J. would have to undergo three surgeries before the age of 3, including one just days after he was born.

On Thursday, T.J. underwent the first surgery (considered the most invasive of the three), and this evening, Greg Olsen tweeted that it was a success.

After a full day of surgery our son TJ is resting comfortably in the cardio intensive care unit. Surgery a success. 1st step of long road

Thank u all for the amazing support and prayers for my family. You have helped us thru this nightmare. Our boy is a fighter.

So, obviously, great news for the Olsens, and here's hoping T.J. will continue on the path to full health and happiness.

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Greg Olsen's twins are born; T.J. will have surgery Today

CHARLOTTE T.J. Olsen, the newborn son of Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, will have the first of three scheduled open-heart surgeries Thursday at Levine Children's Hospital to correct a congenital heart defect.

Kara Olsen delivered twins by Cesarian section Tuesday – T.J. and a daughter, Talbot. The Olsens learned 18 weeks into the pregnancy that T.J. has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition marked by an undeveloped left ventricle and aorta that affects between 1 and 4 babies for every 10,000 live births.
The first surgery is the most invasive and carries the most risk. T.J. will face two additional surgeries before his third birthday.

“He continues to be closely monitored by physicians and clinical staff during this very important period of time,” Olsen said Wednesday via text message. “We appreciate the thoughts and prayers and respect for our family's privacy.”

Olsen said Kara and Talbot are doing well.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said everyone in the organization is thinking about Olsen and his family.

“They had the babies (Tuesday) night. They were both big. One was over 8 pounds. The other one was almost 8 pounds,” Rivera said. “Now T.J. is in the infant care unit, and they'll go from there. So far, so good. We'll keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

Offensive tackle Jordan Gross said he texted with Olsen after the twins arrived.

“Delivery was good. Everything's going according to what they predicted,” Gross said. “They were healthy and big, which was good. So they're getting a good start.”

Running back DeAngelo Williams, who has a 2-year-old daughter, said he is confident T.J. will make a full recovery.

“Everybody here's praying for him,” Williams said. “In this day and age, with the technology that we have – it's better than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. I don't expect anything less than their best, and I know he'll recover.”

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Greg Olsen doesn't get much attention in loss

Greg Olsen caught just two passes for 37 yards in the Panthers' Week 5 loss to the Seahawks.

The FOX broadcast team was going nuts as Olsen saw no targets in the first half despite running open on multiple occasions. Cam Newton was simply locked onto Steve Smith and couldn't get off him. Olsen ended up with just three targets, but expect the Panthers' coaches to hammer Newton with tape during the bye week. He'll see that Olsen is getting open with ease.

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Greg Olsen, Heart Of The Matter

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and his wife Kara learned that their unborn child will be born with a heart defect. They hope a series of surgeries will save his life.

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Greg Olsen leads Panthers with 89 yards, TD

Greg Olsen led the Panthers with 89 yards and a touchdown on six receptions versus the Falcons in Week 4.

Olsen had seven targets, leading the team for the second consecutive week. With Steve Smith drawing attention away, Olsen was left open for a 17-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the first quarter. On pace for an 80/1,024/4 stat line, Olsen has earned TE1 consideration heading into Week 5 versus the Seahawks.

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Greg Olsen hauls in six receptions

Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen had six receptions for 56 yards in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Olsen was second on the club with seven targets.

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Panthers counting on big season from TE Greg Olsen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Greg Olsen is hoping he can be as productive as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Olsen could be poised for a breakout season not having to share catches with Jeremy Shockey, now a free agent, and with the arrival of new fullback Mike Tolbert, who should lighten Olsen’s load as a blocker.

In fact, Rivera believes “it’s possible” Olsen could put up numbers similar to what Gronkowski and Graham did last season.

And that’s saying something.

Gronkowski turned in a great season a year ago catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns for the AFC champion New England Patriots [team stats]. Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards receiving and 11 scores for the division rival New Orleans Saints.

You’d have to scan a bit further down the list of league leaders — OK, way down — to find Olsen’s name.

He finished his first season in Carolina (No. 20 in the AP Pro 32) with 45 catches for 540 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

However, when you begin to factor in Shockey’s numbers — 37 receptions for 455 yards receiving and four touchdowns — it begins to put the Panthers in the same ballpark with the Patriots and Saints when it comes to overall tight end production.

With Shockey not likely to return, Rivera expects more balls will be thrown Olsen’s way.

“This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy,” Rivera said. “You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We’re excited about it.”

Good enough to challenge Gronkowski and Graham?

“It’s possible,” Rivera said. “We spread the ball around so much in this offense, but I really think it’s possible for a guy to have big games and put quite a few of them together and have some big numbers.”

Rivera said Olsen has a tremendous rapport with quarterback Cam Newton and works extremely hard.

“I think he’s a tremendous target,” Rivera said. “I think the chance of him stepping up and being right in the elite group of players at his position I think that’s possible. I really do.”

Olsen also has something else working to his advantage — offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, a former tight ends coach who loves utilizing that position in the passing game.

Just look at what he did for Antonio Gates in San Diego and Kellen Winslow Jr. in Cleveland.

As you might expect all of this talk of more passes thrown his way is music to Olsen’s ears.

He is, after all, a receiver by nature.

Catching the football is what he does best.

And he feels if given the chance he can finish among the league leaders in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

“In terms of physically running, catching and doing all of things, I don’t think there’s a lot of guys in the league who do those things better than I do,” Olsen said. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of different circumstances dictate different results.”

At the same time Olsen isn’t a selfish player.

He doesn’t measure his success by personal statistics.

“I’ve had some seasons where I caught a lot of balls and I looked back and realized I didn’t play all that well overall, and I’ve had others where I caught 40 balls and felt like I played well around,” Olsen said. “I’ve never been one to try to let stats dictate what I bring to the team. But obviously production is what you’re judged on.”

Olsen’s most productive season came in 2009 when he had 612 yards receiving on 60 receptions and eight touchdowns for the Chicago Bears.

While it looked as if he was on the verge of becoming a breakout player in the league, the arrival of offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2010 changed how the Bears utilized the tight end position.

Olsen spent the majority of his final two seasons with the Bears used more in blocking situations. The Bears traded him away for a third-round draft pick last summer.

Carolina’s plan is to play to Olsen’s strengths.

Olsen said based on the plays the team is running in practice and in preseason games he’ll have an opportunity to put up quality numbers.
“I think so and that’s always been my strength is catching the ball,” Olsen said.

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Greg Olsen has his eyes on the ball

The complement to star receiver Steve Smith for whom Carolina has been endlessly searching could finally emerge this season in the form of tight end Greg Olsen.

The immensely athletic 6-foot-5, 255-pounder has long held the skills to be as much a consistent pass-catcher as blocker, and now with the departure of veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey, Olsen should receive quite an uptick in his chances to shine with the football.

“I prepare each year to try and go in and be the best guy, and even as a young guy I always played with a lot of confidence that I felt I could do anything that any of the (older) guys could,” Olsen said. “I’ve always approached it to be the main guy and be one of the top guys in the league and that never is going to change. Once it does, you’re going to be in trouble.”

The Panthers still hope that Brandon LaFell or Louis Murphy can admirably fill the second receiver slot, but head coach Ron Rivera thinks Olsen has all the tools to become a playmaker along the lines of top receiving tight ends like New England’s Rob Gronkowski or New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.

“I think (Olsen) can be right in with them,” Rivera said. “This is going to be his first opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy. You watch him catch balls and watch him run routes and you see he has the traits where he can fit right in with that group (of elite tight ends).

“So we’re excited and I think it’s an opportunity for Greg and it’s a chance I know he looks forward to.”

Olsen has long since held abundant self-belief that he has the skill to be one of the league’s best, and feels that statistics don’t always tell the true story of a player’s season. Last year in tandem with Shockey, Olsen caught 45 balls for 540 yards and five touchdowns to his counterpart’s 37 for 455 and four scores.
Those numbers in his first year with the Panthers were the third highest totals of a career where the first four seasons were spent in Chicago. The 27-year-old’s most productive season came in 2009 in his first year as a full-time starter, when he caught 60 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.

He’d shown flashes of brilliance in his previous year when he grabbed 54 for 574 and five touchdowns despite only starting seven games.

“That’s how I’ve always thought of myself,” Olsen said when asked about Rivera saying he could join the league’s elite at his position. “Sometimes situations dictate statistics and I’ve had years where I had good stats but thought my overall play wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, and others where I played good but didn’t catch as many balls as I had. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.”

“Last year with me and Shock both being here, things got a little deluded and at first glance you think you’ve had a down year, but all you can do is with the opportunities you have, and I feel like that was the case, and the two of us were pretty productive as a unit rather than as individuals.”

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Greg Olsen on par with Graham, Gronkowski?

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – We already knew the Carolina Panthers were filled with optimism. (See Ryan Kalil’s newspaper ad promising a Super Bowl title before the start of training camp).

Well, the latest can’t be construed as a “guarantee," but head coach Ron Rivera had a very strong answer Monday when asked if tight end Greg Olsen could be as productive as New England’s Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.

For context, Gronkowski had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I think he can be right in there with them,’’ Rivera said. “This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy. You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We’re excited about it.’’

That may sound a little grandiose, especially when you consider that Olsen had 45 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns last season. But I get Rivera’s point and I don’t think he’s totally off base.

First off, Olsen shared time with Jeremy Shockey last season. Shockey had 37 catches, but he hasn’t re-signed with the Panthers and that doesn’t seem likely. Project those 37 catches over to Olsen and it at least puts him in the same ballpark as Graham and Gronkowski.

But there’s more than that. Olsen was traded to the Panthers from Chicago last year and got thrown right into coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. Rookie quarterback Cam Newton also was picking up the scheme on the fly.

Olsen and Newton have had a full offseason in the system. Plus, Chudzinski’s a former tight ends coach, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s put in a few more wrinkles for Olsen.

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Greg Olsen ready to stand on his own

SPARTANBURG Standing in front of his locker late last season, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen looked over the NFL statistics and marveled at the numbers being put up by tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

Olsen noted that, taken together, the receiving totals posted by him and Jeremy Shockey would have placed them fairly high on the list.

With Shockey waiting in limbo as an unsigned free agent, Olsen is poised to take his place among the best pass-catching tight ends in the league.
Except in the Panthers’ offense, Olsen does more than catch passes.

“The world we live in is production-based. That’s fair. And those guys are special guys, don’t get me wrong,” Olsen said Monday. “What Gronkowski and Graham have been able to do in two years – those are the two guys you hear a lot about, deservedly so. They’ve played well. They’ve been very productive. And at the end of the day that’s what you get judged on.

“But I feel on a play-to-play basis with what we’re asked to do, there’s not a lot of guys in the league that get asked to do what we do. From run routes, then the next play you’re at fullback, then you’re pass-blocking, then you’re in the backfield picking up blitzes, then you’re playing receiver again.”

Gronkowski and Graham ripped up the record books in 2011 in their second seasons. Gronkowski, a second-round pick of New England, caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdown receptions. His receiving yards were the most by a tight end in league history.

Graham, a former Miami basketball player drafted by New Orleans in the third round, was just as potent in the Saints’ offense. Graham’s 99 catches were the most by a tight end, and his 1,310 receiving yards would have been if not for Gronkowski.

“When you look at guys like Gronkowski and watch them, they’re not just stat players. He does a lot. He blocks. He really is an all-around player. Same thing as (the Cowboys’ Jason) Witten,” Olsen said. “But the thing that draws the attention is the stats. And last year, me and Jeremy combined were right up there. If we were one person, we would have been right up there.”

Olsen and Shockey combined for 82 catches and 995 yards, which would have ranked third behind Gronkowski and Graham. The catches were split fairly evenly: Olsen had 45 catches for 540 yards; Shockey 37 for 455.

“That system worked for us last year. And we were very productive at it. Neither one of us took it as a knock,” Olsen said. “We knew that neither one as an individual were going to get a lot of recognition. But I’m not a big attention guy.”

Olsen’s father was his high school coach in Wayne, N.J. As the son of a coach, he enjoys the nuances of the game, and says he gets as much satisfaction picking up a back-side blitz as he does pulling down a long pass.

Panthers’ second-year receiver Kealoha Pilares said Olsen knows where everyone is supposed to line up every play.

“That guy approaches every day like it’s work. I always look at him and Steve (Smith) and just how they approach every day at practice. Those are the guys who are always looking to forward to getting better,” Pilares said. “If I ever don’t know what I’m doing I just go ask (Olsen). He’s a really intelligent guy who knows what’s going on.”

The Panthers acquired Olsen last summer in a trade with Chicago, where Olsen played behind Desmond Clark his first two years. Olsen, 27, caught a career-high 60 passes for 612 yards in 2009, but his role diminished the following season when Mike Martz became the Bears’ offensive coordinator.

With the Panthers’ decision not to bring back Shockey, Olsen should be one of Cam Newton’s top targets in the NFL’s fifth-ranked offense last season. Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Olsen is in the same class as Gronkowski and Graham.

“I think he can be right in there with them,” Rivera said. “This will be his first real opportunity to step up and be the guy. You watch him catch footballs, you watch him run routes and you see those traits that he can fit right into that group.”

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PHOTO: Greg Olsen at Panthers Training Camp


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Greg Olsen Hosts Kickball Tourney

Even when they've moved on to other teams, former Bears still seem to get a kick out of coming back to Chicago.

Carolina Panther tight end Greg Olsen will return to the city of his former employer on June 30 to host the 9th annual Kicks for a Cure kickball tournament in Grant Park.

The event is billed as the largest kickball tournament in the world and raises funds for Olsen's cancer charity, Receptions for Research.

Matt Forte and Indianapolis Colt Drew Stanton will be playing on Olsen's team this year.

Sixty teams are participating in the tournament, which sold out in 15 days.

But even though it's too late to play, spectators can purchase day passes for $50 which allows entrance into the Hutchinson Field event, as well as food and beverage throughout the day.

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Greg Olsen's brother commits to 'Canes

CORAL GABLES— The Miami Hurricanes landed one of the nation's best high school quarterbacks on Friday as Wayne Hills (N.J.) High's Kevin Olsen, the younger brother of former 'Canes tight end Greg Olsen, orally committed to join the 2013 signing class.

Olsen (6-3, 196) is the nation's seventh-ranked quarterback prospect according to, the 77th best prospect according to and the fifth-best pro style quarterback and 51st overall prospect according to 247Sports.

His other finalists were Auburn and Wisconsin.

"It was a combination of things. It was a combination of liking the coaches a lot and liking the offense they run," Olsen told "And I think Miami is going to be back. I think they can get to where they were years ago. I think I can help them get back there."

Olsen said his brother's ties to UM didn't determine his decision.

"Contrary to what many people think, he didn't push me here. That wasn't the case," Olsen said. "He told me that at the end of the day, it's up to you and it's your decision."

Olsen has a 22-2 record in two years as a starter, and as a junior last season led Wayne Hills to its second straight state championship. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,686 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw six interceptions.

The Hurricanes now have seven commitments for the 2013 class, including Palm Beach Central athlete Angelo Jean-Louis, who signed with the 'Canes in February, but for academic reasons will attend Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy this fall.

Should Olsen sign in February and two-sport star David Thompson, one of three quarterbacks in UM's 2012 signing class, choose not to pursue a pro baseball career after the MLB Draft next month, the 'Canes are set to have six quarterbacks for 2013. They had just two under scholarship when Al Golden took over as head coach in December 2010.

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Greg Olsen: “I Wouldn’t Want To Be In Any Other Offense Or On Any Either Team Than Here.”

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WR & TE U Goes To The proCanes

Deciding Miami led all FBS programs in producing quality NFL running backs was a tough call.

Picking Miami as the top school to find future pro receivers and tight ends wasn't nearly as difficult.

Miami's contingent of NFL wide receivers includes Houston Texans star Andre Johnson and Indianapolis Colts standout Reggie Wayne, who have each earned five Pro Bowl appearances while combining for 125 touchdown catches and over 21,000 receiving yards.

Other Miami receivers on NFL rosters last season included Devin Hester (Chicago Bears), Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins), Santana Moss (Washington Redskins) and Roscoe Parrish (Buffalo Bills, now with San Diego Chargers). Moss is a former 1,000-yard receiver, while Hester arguably is the greatest kick returner in NFL history.

Miami was an even more obvious pick at tight end. In fact, tight end may have been the easiest pick of any position for this entire project. Miami's tradition of sending tight ends to the NFL has even caught the attention of high school prospects.

"I felt like this is where I'm going to be the best and I'm going to reach my full potential," New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr junior tight end Standish Dobard told after committing to the Hurricanes this month. "They have a history of really good tight ends here."

Former Miami tight ends now in the NFL include Dedrick Epps (New York Jets), Richard Gordon (Oakland Raiders), Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints), Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers), Jeremy Shockey (Carolina Panthers) and Kellen Winslow (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Shockey is a four-time Pro Bowl pick and Winslow has earned one Pro Bowl invitation.

But the biggest success story of all is Graham, who actually came to Miami on a basketball scholarship. He switched to football in 2009 and showed enough in that one season to get drafted in the third round.

All he did last season was catch 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. The only tight end to ever accumulate more receiving yards in a season was New England's Rob Gronkowski, who compiled 1,327 yards last year.

Although no other schools can approach Miami's success at developing NFL tight ends, a few other programs also deserve mention. Former Iowa tight ends Dallas Clark and Tony Moeaki have enjoyed solid NFL careers. Arizona State produced NFL veterans Todd Heap and Zach Miller. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez joins Cameron Morrah and Craig Stevens as former California tight ends in the NFL. Wisconsin has sent Travis Beckum, Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks to the NFL in recent seasons.

LSU was worth considering at the wide receiver spot. Dwayne Bowe has developed into a star for the Kansas City Chiefs. Early Doucet (Arizona Cardinals), Brandon LaFell (Carolina Panthers) and Devery Henderson (New Orleans Saints) each collected over 500 receiving yards last season.
But nobody compared to Miami at either position.

Even though Miami has enjoyed similar success at the wide receiver and tight end spots, the Hurricanes have relied on different strategies at each of those positions.

Most of the NFL receivers to come from Miami were South Florida products. Johnson and Parrish both played at Miami Senior High. Moss went to Miami Carol City. Hankerson graduated from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and Hester came from Riviera Beach (Fla.) Suncoast. A notable exception is Wayne, who went to Marrero (La.) John Ehret.

But most of its star tight ends didn't play for Florida high schools.

Olsen comes from New Jersey. Miami landed Shockey from Oklahoma. Winslow made the coast-to-coast move from San Diego to Miami. Graham's from North Carolina. Dobard looks to continue that tradition when he arrives at Miami in 2013.

Both strategies have worked quite well for Miami.

The only legitimate criticism that could be made about Miami's ability to send receivers and tight ends to the NFL is that many of its top guys at this position are at or past their primes.

Hankerson, a third-round pick last year, is the only Miami receiver to get drafted since 2007. Wayne ended his Miami career in 2000. Johnson's last two years at Miami were the 2001 national championship season and the 2002 campaign that ended with a Fiesta Bowl overtime loss to Ohio State.

And even though Graham has emerged as an immediate star in the NFL after a brief college career, most of Miami's other productive NFL tight ends left college long ago. Shockey's last season at Miami was 2001. Winslow finished his college career in 2004 and Olsen left Miami after the 2006 season.

Olsen, who caught 38 passes in 2006, was the last Miami tight end to catch more than 22 passes in a season. Miami's main pass-catching tight end last season was Clive Walford, who caught 18 passes for 172 yards as a redshirt freshman after playing just one year of high school football at Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central.

Tommy Streeter should assure that Miami has a wide receiver drafted for a second straight season. After catching 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns last year, Streeter has been projected as a mid- to late-round pick in this year's draft.

Miami might not have a tight end drafted anytime soon, mainly because of its youth at that position. Walford still has plenty of time left in his college career. Miami didn't sign a tight end in its 2012 class, but the Hurricanes rectified that issue by getting the early 2013 commitment from Dobard.
"I hope to be one of the best tight ends ever to come through Miami," Dobard told

That would be quite an accomplishment indeed.

Our choice: Miami.
Who they've sent: Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins), Devin Hester (Chicago Bears), Andre Johnson (Houston Texans), Santana Moss (Washington Redskins), Roscoe Parrish (San Diego Chargers), Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts).
Who's next: Tommy Streeter is a projected mid- to late-round selection in this year's draft.
Why we picked them: Johnson and Wayne are two of the most productive receivers of the last decade. Each has five Pro Bowl appearances. They have combined for 125 touchdown catches and over 21,000 receiving yards. Moss also is a former Pro Bowl selection. Hester remains an unpolished receiver, but he's one of the best kick returners in football history.
Other finalists: Florida (Denver's Andre Caldwell, Philadelphia's Riley Cooper, Washington's Jabar Gaffney, Minnesota's Percy Harvin, Oakland's Louis Murphy, Buffalo's David Nelson), LSU (Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, New York Giants' Michael Clayton, Arizona's Early Doucet, New Orleans' Devery Henderson, Houston's Trindon Holliday, Carolina's Brandon LaFell, Detroit's Terrence Toliver), Michigan (New Orleans' Adrian Arrington, Philadelphia's Jason Avant, Kansas City's Steve Breaston, San Francisco's Mario Manningham), Ohio State (San Francisco's Ted Ginn, New England's Anthony Gonzalez, Miami's Brian Hartline, New York Jets' Santonio Holmes, Minnesota's Michael Jenkins)
Candidate you might not have considered: Tennessee, Texas Tech.

Our choice: Miami.
Who they've sent: Richard Gordon (Oakland Raiders), Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints), Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers), Jeremy Shockey (free agent), Kellen Winslow Jr. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Who's next: Nobody's on the horizon. Miami's top pass catching tight end last year was Clive Walford, a redshirt freshman in 2011.
Why we picked them: Miami would have been the clear pick even if we'd done this a year ago, before Graham delivered a breakthrough season in which he caught 99 passes. Graham, Shockey and Winslow have all earned Pro Bowl invitations at some point in their careers.
Other finalists: Arizona State (Arizona's Todd Heap, Seattle's Zach Miller), California (Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez, Seattle's Cameron Morrah, Tennessee's Craig Stevens), Iowa (Buffalo's Scott Chandler, free agent Dallas Clark, Kansas City's Tony Moeaki, Oakland's Brandon Myers, Minnesota's Allen Reisner), Notre Dame (Seattle's John Carlson, Miami's Anthony Fasano, Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph), Texas (Green Bay's Jermichael Finley, Cincinnati's Bo Scaife, New Orleans' David Thomas), Wisconsin (New York Giants' Travis Beckum, Houston's Owen Daniels, Houston's Garrett Graham, St. Louis' Lance Kendricks)
Candidate you might not have considered: Colorado State is the alma mater of Denver's Joel Dreessen and San Diego's Kory Sperry. Dreessen caught six touchdown passes for the Houston Texans last season before signing with the Broncos as a free agent.

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Greg Olsen's Foundation Donates $50K to Levine Cancer Institute

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Greg Olsen restructured deal

Very quietly, the Carolina Panthers have restructured the contract of tight end Greg Olsen.

The deal was done several weeks ago, but I haven’t seen it reported anywhere. The Panthers have made other moves since Olsen’s restructure and they currently are the only team in the NFL with less than $1 million in salary-cap space.

The Panthers dropped Olsen’s salary-cap figure from $4.125 million to $2.4 million by converting $2.3 million of his scheduled base salary into a signing bonus that will be pro-rated over the life of his contract. The Panthers also converted a $2.5 million option bonus into a signing bonus that also will be pro-rated over the rest of Olsen’s contract.

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Greg Olsen intertwined to Marshall deal

Greg Olsen turned into being part of the package that brought the Chicago Bears Brandon Marshall.

General manager Phil Emery cleared up questions about what specific picks the Bears shipped to the Miami Dolphins in the Tuesday trade for the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

The Bears gave the Dolphins the 74th overall pick in the third round, the pick they received from the Carolina Panthers for Olsen, and their third-round pick in 2013.

The Bears still have seven picks in this draft. But their pick in the third round will come later.

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